USAF’s F-22 Raptor has been on stand down for few months now. The stand down
was to investigate any potential issues with the aircraft’s onboard oxygen
generation system for use at high altitudes. The investigation was started
after pilots were experiencing symptoms of hypoxia during flights in the
The chief of the USAF will get options this week on how to lift the grounding of the F-22 and allow the aircraft
and its pilots to return to the skies. In the cases of the hypoxia-like
symptoms, the pilots were also found to have toxins in the bloodstream. USAF
chief Gen. Norton Schwartz said last week that the full report would allow him to decide what restrictions to place on the return
to operating for the F-22.
There had been previous discussions that one of the potential restrictions
would be to limit the F-22 to an operational altitude of 40,000 feet until the
issue was pinpointed. Others want the aircraft to return to the 60,000 ceiling
right away. One of the reasons a fix for the F-22 issue hasn't been found according
to some is that the Air Force physiologists that are working on the problem
don’t have practical experience.
The operational F-22 community wants someone with hands-on experience with the
aircraft to be part of the process. Specifically, they are calling for Kevin
Divers to join the team. Divers is a former pilot who later trained to be a
physiologist, and now runs a consulting firm called Warrior Edge. Divers was
part of the F-22 Combines Test Force during the development of the aircraft.
Divers said during his time in the USAF, "The trend that I saw, as
rated-physiologists left the career field, is that the aerospace physiology
officer leans more on academic knowledge." He continued, "There is a
major gap between research and operational knowledge of the F-22 that could be
causing this delay."
Divers added, "I know all of their [F-22] flight equipment - the [onboard
oxygen generating system] OBOGS, the entire plumbing of the aircraft to the
OBOGS - because I had to study it and look at it from the safety standpoint for
the pilots. My pilot training experience taught me to break down subsystems and
know the aircraft to the level that the aircrew has to know it. Air Force
physiologists aren't trained that way coming into the Air Force."
While the fate of the F-22 should be decided shortly, another investigation
into the F-22 and a crash that killed one pilot has been concluded according
to sources. In November of 2010, a USAF F-22 piloted by Capt. Jeff
"Bong" Haney crashed in Alaska. The pilot was killed in the crash.
The cause has been under investigation and the industry source claims that the
crash was caused by a malfunction in the F-22 engine's air bleed system.
Defense News claims that the same
information was confirmed by another source, this one a pilot. According to an
accident report, the bleed air issue caused the F-22 environmental control
system and the onboard oxygen generation system to shut down. However, the USAF
refutes these sources.
Air Force spokesman Lt. Col. John Dorrian wrote in an email to Defense News, "The information
provided by your 'industry source' is not a wholly accurate characterization of
the crash. However, due to the ongoing Accident Investigation Board process I
am not able to provide point-by-point confirmation, as the information is not
yet releasable. PACAF is conducting the AIB process and will release
appropriate information once the process is complete."
The source claims that he doesn’t see how the OBOGS that has caused the F-22
fleet grounding could have been ruled out as the cause for the crash.