Defense

July 24, 2012

Panetta approves plan to lift F-22 flight limits

By Lilita C. Baldor
Associated Press

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has approved an Air Force plan to begin lifting flight restrictions on the F-22 stealth fighter jet, following the ongoing correction of oxygen deficit problems that grounded and restricted the fleet for months.

Pentagon press secretary George Little said July 24 that the Pentagon has “very high confidence that we’ve identified the issue” with the mysterious oxygen depletion problem that caused some F-22 pilots to feel dizzy and experience other symptoms of hypoxia. The Air Force now believes that a key problem was a valve in the pilots’ pressure vest that caused it to inflate and remain inflated, triggering breathing problems.

In mid-May, Panetta ordered that F-22 flights remain “within proximity of potential landing locations” so pilots could land quickly if they experienced a lack of oxygen.

As of July 24, after a briefing from Air Forces leaders July 20, Panetta has given the Air Force the green light to begin easing the restrictions, as changes are made to the fighter’s oxygen system. The Air Force is replacing the valve and increasing the volume of air flowing to the pilots by removing a filter that was installed to check for contaminants in the system.

Little said Panetta also authorized the deployment of a squadron of F-22s to Kadena Air Base in Japan. He said that the jets will fly to the base under altitude restrictions, but after that the Air Force will begin resuming most longer-duration flights. The precautions for the Japan flight, said Little, are part of the measured approach the Air Force is taking to gradually return to normal flights.

Over time, the Air Force also plans to install a new backup emergency oxygen system, add sensors and put in an improved pilot oxygen center.

Once the changes are complete, the Air Force will seek approval to remove the flight restrictions that limit it from flying at high altitudes.

“The secretary believes that pilot safety is paramount. The gradual lifting of restrictions will enable the Air Force to resume normal F-22 operations over time, while ensuring the safety of the incredible airmen who fly this critical aircraft,” said Little.

Little said he does not know the exact timeline for the return to normal operations. He noted that the flights to Japan will be at lower altitudes so that the vests would not have to be used.

Gen. Norton Schwartz, Air Force Chief of Staff, told Pentagon reporters that extensive testing has concluded that the problem was the amount of oxygen the pilots were getting, not the quality of the oxygen. And he said that the Air Force will modify and test the modified equipment “under the most demanding conditions,” over the coming months and then will go back to Panetta for final approval to lift the flight restrictions.

The problem came to light when pilots complained publicly about the oxygen depletion, prompting Panetta to order the flight limits.

The F-22, manufactured by Lockheed Martin, is the Air Force’s most-prized stealth fighter. It was built to evade radar and is capable of flying at faster-than-sound speeds without using afterburners.

Asked why the problem was not discovered during its lengthy testing and development, Schwartz acknowledged, “we missed some things, bottom line.”

He said that the early testing did not reveal the shortcomings, and noted that some physiology and engineering expertise in the Air Force has diminished over the years.

So, Schwartz said the lesson is that the Air Force needs to pay better attention to the “man-machine interface” of its aircraft.




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 

Headlines July 30, 2014

News: Software to power F-35 running as much as 14 months late¬†- Software needed to operate Lockheed Martin’s F-35 jet, the Pentagon’s costliest weapons system, may be as much as 14 months late for required flight testing, according to a Pentagon review.   Business: Lockheed will turn on JLTV production line In August; 6-D truck...
 
 

News Briefs July 30, 2014

U.S. military deaths in Afghanistan at 2,197 As of July 29, 2014, at least 2,197 members of the U.S. military had died in Afghanistan as a result of the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001, according to an Associated Press count. At least 1,819 military service members have died in Afghanistan as a result...
 
 
Lockheed Martin photograph by Tom Reynolds

F-35B successfully completes wet runway, crosswind testing

Lockheed Martin photograph by Tom Reynolds F-35B aircraft BF-4, piloted by Lockheed Martin Test Pilot Dan Levin, starts down the runway as part of wet runway and crosswind testing at Edwards AFB, Calif. In an important program ...
 

 
boeing-chinook

Boeing delivers first U.S. Army multiyear II configured Chinook

Boeing July 29 delivered the first multiyear II configured CH-47F Chinook helicopter to the U.S. Army one month ahead of schedule. The delivery was celebrated in a ceremony at the production facility in Ridley Township, Penn. ‚...
 
 
Army photograph by SSgt. Angela Stafford

Engineers developing safer, more accurate tracer round

Army photograph Tracer rounds enable the shooter to follow the projectile trajectory to make aiming corrections. However, the light emitted by these rounds also gives away the position of the shooter. Engineers at Picatinny Ars...
 
 
NASA photograph by Carla Thomas

Katherine Lott awarded NASA Armstrong employee scholarship

NASA photograph by Carla Thomas Katherine Lott, the recipient of the 2014 NASA Armstrong Employee Exchange Council Joseph R. Vensel Memorial Scholarship, is congratulated by NASA Armstrong center director David McBride. Flankin...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>