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Faulty valve could contribute to hypoxia-like symptoms experienced by some pilots

The United States Air Force's premier air superiority fighter is the F-22 Raptor. However, the F-22 has had problems over the last few years with pilots at times experiencing hypoxia-like symptoms during flight. The F-22 fleet was grounded while an investigation into the problem was conducted.
Ultimately, USAF found no hard evidence on what was causing the symptoms in some pilots and the aircraft were returned to the skies with no fixes applied. 
The Air Force has now announced that after further review, it has discovered a faulty valve on the pressurized vests F-22 pilots wear during flights. The valve will be replaced by the end of the year and pilots are currently not wearing the pressurized vests during flights. The move to replace the valve and ban the vests from being worn currently is an attempt to help address some pilot complaints of nausea and dizziness while operating the fighter.
The valve in question connects the plane's onboard oxygen generation system to the vest and inflates the vest to protect pilots during high G maneuvers. However, the valve has a flaw because the vests to be constantly inflated even when the aircraft is operating at lower altitudes where the vest wasn't required.

"It [the vest] restricts his breathing, it restricts his ability to do normal inhalation and exhalation. ... The pressurization schedule in the F-22 inflates prematurely, so we removed this,” Maj. Gen. Charles Lyon said at a Pentagon briefing Tuesday. Lyon is the director of operations for Air Combat Command. Air Force officials believe that the pressure on the chest of the pilot due to the faulty valve could cause the symptoms of hypoxia that some pilots are experiencing.
Defense News reports that within the next month the USAF will start testing a new valve that will provide more tension and restrict airflow into the pressure vests until the airflow is needed.
Lyon also went on to say that there was no evidence that the faulty valve contributed to the fatal F-22 crash resulting in the death of pilot Capt. Jeff "Bong" Haney.

Source: Defense News

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By Lifted on 8/1/2012 10:34:04 AM , Rating: 5
I would swear I've read articles in the past stating other pilots had experienced hypoxia-like symptoms... a lot of other pilots. Is the Air Force seriously telling us that none of their pilots realized their vest were suffocating them?

The Air Force was either lying then or they're lying now... or F-22 pilots are retarded, which I highly doubt is the case here.

RE: Wut
By Ringold on 8/1/2012 11:14:55 AM , Rating: 2
I'm not one to criticize the military often, but I think the Air Force has been... less than honest... about this from the very start. I trust the reports of the multi-thousand-hour sky-god pilots over the military-industrial bureaucracy any day. They're just trying to cover their own ass.

RE: Wut
By MrBlastman on 8/1/2012 12:34:11 PM , Rating: 2
There is definitely more to this story than vests causing the hypoxia. You have to remember though--high level military decisions revolve heavily around politics. If they admit something else is the cause of the problem, one general and one congressman/senator might cost themselves thousands or millions in kickbacks plus earmarks geared towards their constituents and contributors.

It's stupid but that is how the game is played. Remember, the screwdriver doesn't really cost 10,000 bucks. The screwdriver is just listed as costing this much to cover up other stuff they don't want to report.

This "oh the suit valve caused it," is all part of that game. Someone out there has a lot to lose if the real truth comes out. We can only hope that someday a pilot might speak up about it. They probably won't, though, as there is far too much at stake. It'll probably take a few more people dying for some pilots to change their minds.

RE: Wut
By geddarkstorm on 8/1/2012 12:59:35 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah seriously. If it was the vests, why doesn't this problem affect all our pilots who wear these vests (which have been around for a long time), and not just the F-22s?

I wonder if we accidentally subcontracted substandard parts for the OOG (or F-22 specific vest interfaces?) from China or something; like all those defective Chinese electronics that were showing up in our military equipment.

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