Air Force

May 10, 2012

Air Force provides aircraft pilot safety testimony to Congress

Master Sgt. Raheem Moore
Air Force Public Affairs Agency
(U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Austin M. May)
High above the Atlantic Ocean, an F-22 Raptor from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, trails a 100th Air Refueling Wing KC-135 Stratotanker.

WASHINGTON — The military deputy in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition discussed tactical aviation programs during congressional testimony here May 8.

During a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Lt. Gen. Janet Wolfenbarger discussed what steps the Air Force has taken in regard to F-22 Raptor pilot safety.

“We have initiated 17 life support enhancements to the F-22 as direct risk mitigation steps,” said Wolfenbarger. “Many of these enhancements are already fielded, including a modification to the emergency oxygen activation handle and an aircrew blood oxygen sensor.”

Responding to questions regarding what percentage of hypoxia-like incidents there have been, Wolfenbarger answered that pilots have reported occurrences in less than 0.1 percent of all F-22 sorties flown. She emphasized Air Force leaders’ commitment to eliminating the incidents altogether.

“Our pilots’ safety is of utmost concern and a top priority,” she said. “We have all of the best minds on this, from across the (Department of Defense), NASA, academia and industry experts.”

When asked by Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts about whether she felt the F-22 was safe to fly, Wolfenbarger said, “Yes sir, we feel it is.”

In addition to safety of flight, the general emphasized the need for the aircraft.

“Fifth-generation fighters such as the F-22 and F-35 (Joint Strike Fighter) are key elements of our nation’s defense and deterrent capability,” she said.

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