F-22 Raptor is the premiere air superiority fighter in the U.S. arsenal. The
aircraft has been on a stand down for months after 14 different Raptor pilots
reported hypoxia-like symptoms. The pilots of the F-22 Raptor are itching to
get back into their cockpits and despite the issue that lead to the stand down
not being resolved, it appears that the pilots may get their wish.
Sources are reporting to Defense News that the USAF is set to convene
today and discuss what restrictions to place on the F-22 when it is cleared to return to flight. The problem that
led to the grounding was a suspected issue with the Onboard Oxygen Generation
System or OBOGS. While the cause of the issue hasn’t been found, the planes are
apparently set to take to the skies again.
One source told Defense News,
"They [investigators] haven't pinpointed it [the issue with OBOGS]. But
they feel that the risk is mitigated enough to stop the grounding while they
continue to see what can be done to solve the problem."
Air Force chief of staff General Norton Schwartz said previously that the
F-22 would fly soon. The report from the Scientific Advisory Board that has
been investigating the OBOGS issue is due to issue its report next week. That
report will be used to determine the required fix for the aircraft.
Spokesman for Gen. Schwartz, Lt. Col Sam Highley said, "This report,
in conjunction with the results of ongoing safety investigation and recent
flight tests, will provide in-depth technical analysis, data, and
recommendations for improved flight operations. While the Air Force continues
to work diligently toward an expedient return to flight operations, the
stand-down of the F-22 fleet will continue until senior leadership can ensure
we mitigate risks to a level that's appropriate for the urgency of the mission."
One reason for pushing for conditions to return the F-22 to flight now is
that the timing would give the pilots and investigators weeks or months of warm
weather to continue working and investigating before the cold weather sets in.
Some want the restriction on the F-22 to be 40,000-foot altitude operation or
under, while others want the aircraft to be allowed to fly its full 60,000-feet
capability. Lockheed has been sitting on undelivered F-22 aircraft since the fleet has been grounded.
One theory of what might be causing the issue is that a valve on the
oxygen system is failing to keep toxins out of the system’s zeolyte beds. This
is what draws oxygen out of the air around the aircraft. The F-22 is normally
started inside the hanger and some think that the carbon monoxide produced by
the engines in the hanger may be contributing to the failure. The aircraft will
now be started outside the hanger. One source told Defense News, "The hangar and that valve introduce too many