POSTED: 5:17 p.m. HST, Jul 10, 2012
An “in-flight emergency” was declared Friday by a Hawaii-based F-22 Raptor pilot who experienced momentary dizziness as a troubling air supply problem on the costly stealth jets continues to spread, officials said.
Lt. Col. Chuck Anthony, a Hawaii National Guard spokesman, said the Hawaii Air Guard pilot was returning to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam from a routine training sortie when a cockpit warning indicated that the on-board oxygen generating system was not functioning properly.
“So the pilot, following his checklist, recognized possible hypoxia-like symptoms,” Anthony said, adding that the pilot experienced dizziness.
“He activated the emergency oxygen system as directed to do on the checklist,” Anthony said. “His symptoms very quickly abated and the (on-board oxygen system) went back to normal and it started to function at a normal level and he landed the plane without any further incident.”
The 14 F-22 Raptor jets flown and maintained by the Hawaii Air National Guard and active-duty Air Force have not been grounded, Anthony said.
Anthony said it was the first case of hypoxia-like symptoms — not being able to get enough oxygen — experienced by Hawaii-based F-22 pilots or ground crew members. An in-flight emergency gives a pilot landing priority.
U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., and U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Il., brought the Hawaii incident to light in a joint letter delivered today to Air Force Secretary Michael Donley.
The letter said according to “information shared directly with our offices, we understand there was a hypoxia-related in-flight emergency declared by an F-22 pilot incident on July 6 at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.”
Warner and Kinzinger, who continue to probe a rash of hypoxia-like incidents affecting the Air Force’s Raptor fleet, wrote to Donley thanking him for efforts to address the source of the problem.
“However, based on the information provided by (the Air Force) and other more recent developments, we continue to have concerns about efforts to isolate and correct the causes of the hypoxia and hypoxia-like incidents experienced by F-22 pilots,” the two lawmakers said.
In addition to the Hickam emergency, the letter also noted a “restricted airflow” incident in late June involving an F-22 pilot at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., and a May 31 mishap at Tyndall Air Force in Florida in which an F-22 reportedly impacted the runway without extending its landing gear.
The letter said that a July 2 New York Times story cited 36 hypoxia incidents, with 21 classified as unexplained. No other details were provided about the Hawaii incident.
The Hawaii Air Guard and active duty Air Force fly and maintain 14 of the stealthy jets at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. The arrival of the six remaining Raptors to Hawaii — rounding out the squadron of 20 aircraft — has been delayed.