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Anti-Freeze in Air Force Pilots’ Blood

Via: The Atlantic

A few months ago, Air Force leaders noticed some very strange behavior from pilots in the cockpit of F-22 Raptor fighters. Some pilots sounded like they were drunk on the radio; others couldn’t even remember how to use the radio during flights. Lab tests revealed not alcohol in the pilots’ blood, but a host of toxic chemicals including oil fumes, anti-freeze and even propane.

The Air Force grounded the entire stealthy F-22 fleet on May 3rd and launched an investigation. This week, the Air Force Times reports that they’re still stumped, which is not the best news for the fantastically expensive and problem-prone F-22s.

The Air Force has definitely figured out that toxins are making their way into the cockpit, but they don’t know  how. The symptoms that the pilots were displaying resemble those of hypoxia, a condition due to a lack of oxygen. Captain Jeff Haney exhibited the similar symptoms just before he crashed and died in Alaska in November of 2010. Suspecting that the chemicals entered the cockpit through the jet’s life support system, the Air Force is investigating the oxygen masks and pressurization systems, but they’ve yet to find the link.

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Unable to fly, pilots are stuck in simulators and runway taxiing exercises for safety’s sake. Investigators haven’t given any clues to how close they might be to a solution, but if pilots are grounded more than 210 days, they all have to get retrained, inevitably an expensive option.

Expensive and problematic has become a trope for all things F-22-related. Just before the the toxin problem hit its tipping point, the jets were supposed to see their first combat action in Libya. Manufactured in Georgia and championed by Georgia Senator Saxby Chambliss, the jets lost the privilege of leading the first attacks over Libya after showing signs of communications and missile navigation issues. Meanwhile, folks at the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) are starting to wonder why the government is still supporting the program.

“Given the extraordinary cost of this aircraft and the myriad problems in maintaining it (you can’t use a plane if it’s grounded), is the F-22 too expensive and too difficult to use?” asked POGO’s Director of Investigations Nick Schwellenbach earlier this month. “The oxygen system issue is just the latest fiasco in this program.”

Schwellenback links to a Washington Post article from 2009 that reports an F-22 requires “more than 30 hours of maintenance for every hour in the skies, pushing its hourly cost of flying to more than $44,000.”

The government has so far sunk BILLIONS into the F-22 fleet.

http://www.theatlanticwire.com/national/2011/07/anti-freeze-pilots-blood-baffles-air-force/40480/

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Via: Anchorage Daily News

‘Air Force Pilot Dies in Crash’

The pilot of an F-22 Raptor fighter jet that went down Tuesday during a training  flight over Interior Alaska died in the crash, Col. Jack McMullen, commander of  the Air Force’s 3rd Wing, said Friday.

At a brief press conference on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, where the plane  was based, McMullen said evidence at the scene of the crash about 100 miles  north of Anchorage and south of the Denali Highway, including pieces of Capt.  Jeff Haney’s flight suit and other personal effects, led investigators to the  conclusion that he didn’t survive. Part of the aircraft’s ejection seat was also  found at the scene.

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“The weather was beautiful. It was a clear night,  about 77 to 80 percent moon illumination,” McMullen said at the press  conference. “You could see the ground, you could see mountains, you could see  the terrain. So it was a great night to fly airplanes.”

McMullen said the planes were about 10 miles apart,  with Haney’s jet in front, as Haney was making a 180-degree turn to rejoin the  other plane to fly home. They were passing each other about 2 miles apart when  contact with Haney was lost.

http://www.adn.com/2010/11/19/1563439/air-force-says-pilot-died-in-crash.html#ixzz1TLbW6ssh

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July 28, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment