Hypoxia (oxygen depravation) conditions often affecting pilots during and after flying in F-22s remain unsolved even after comprehensive investigation was launched after the 2011 Capt. Jeff “Bong” Haney, Alaska Air National Guard pilot was killed in a crash on November 2010. In December 2011 an Air Force investigation determined the cause for the mishap was pilot error although at least 13 cases of hypoxia were reported since the aircraft became operational in 2005.
The investigation did not determine what has caused this error. The Air Force has previously denied the crash was connected with the hypoxia conditions experienced by other pilots in the past. However, following the accident the Raptor fleet was grounded for a total of four months from May till September 2011. Since the F-22 returned to operational flying in september 2011, the Raptors logged 12,00 flight hours and pilots reported at least 11 new cases of hypoxia, CBS 60 Minutes reported. The Air Force has confirmed that they never seen such high rates of hypoxia events in any other aircraft, with 36 out of 200 pilots reporting such incidents. The cause for the problem has not been found, despite extensive investigations by engineers, medical experts, NASA scientists and even Navy medical specialists familiar with similar decompression conditions experienced by Navy divers.
Among the systems inspected for faults were that toxines have entered somehow to the aircraft air and on-board oxygen supply. Although no such toxines were detected, the Air Force installed filters to remove them from the air supply, and collect samples for further investigation, but in some cases, the filters caused more problems than solutions. Other aspects currently explored are the pilot gear, particularly add-on anti-exposure or cold-weather gear worn on top of the standard G-suit. Meanwhile, until a more permanent solution is found, the Raptor pilots are wearing pulse oximeters to monitor their oxygen saturation levels during flight. Any time a pilot’s oxygen saturation drops below 85%, he is required to immediately return to base to allow officials to gather data.
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