F-22s Grounded Due to Safety Concern

Air Combat Command last week stood down the F-22 fleet indefinitely over reports about potential malfunctions with the aircraft’s onboard oxygen-generation system that provides the pilot with breathable air in flight. “The safety of our airmen is paramount and we will take the necessary time to ensure we perform a thorough investigation,” ACC officials told the Daily Report. They said the investigation will focus on pinpointing the cause of pilot “physiological-hypoxia-like” events reported through Air Force safety channels, and then devising, testing, and fielding solutions. A malfunctioning oxygen system could cause the pilot to blackout and face a life-threatening situation. In one incident, an F-22 pilot at JB Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, scraped his aircraft’s underside on trees during a landing approach, but could not recall what happened, reported Blooomberg. The grounding comes six months after the fatal crash of an F-22 in Alaska. Since that crash is still under investigation, the ACC officials declined to say whether the oxygen system was a factor. In January, though, ACC restricted the flight ceiling for F-22 training, prohibiting pilots from flying higher than 25,000 feet, due to concern over the oxygen system. The aircraft’s normal operating ceiling is above 50,000 feet. (See our initial coverage)