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F-22 Flights Ordered To Remain Close To Runways

F-22 Raptor – / File Photo

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta has ordered the U.S. Air Force to take additional steps to mitigate risks to F-22 pilots said acting assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, George Little, during a press conference on Tuesday.

According to Little, A few pilots experienced hypoxia-like symptoms when flying the aircraft as far back as 2008. There have been a total of 12 cases of these oxygen deficiency symptoms affecting pilots.
Effective immediately, all F-22 flights will remain near potential landing locations to enable quick recovery and landing should a pilot encounter unanticipated physiological conditions during flight, Little added.
“Secretary Panetta believes the department must do everything possible to ensure pilot safety and minimize flight risks,” Little said. Panetta has directed the U.S. Air Force to provide him with a monthly progress report as the service continues the search for the root cause of the problem.

The secretary’s directions take into account the need for determining the cause of the problem, while still allowing the military to use the unique capabilities provided by the F-22 Raptor. The aircraft are based in the United States and are now deployed to Southwest Asia, Little said. As the only fifth-generation aircraft in the world, he added, the plane is the most capable fighter in the air and is necessary to maintain U.S. air dominance.
“Safety is a zero-sum game,” Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. John Kirby said at the news conference. The automatic backup oxygen system will complete testing by the end of November, with installation in line fighters beginning in December. Ten Raptors will be retrofitted with this system per month, he said.
Keeping the F-22 fleet flying allows the service to examine the aircraft closely. “There’s a troubleshooting process going on right now,” Kirby said. “So the aircraft being in operation assists that process. We believe we’ve mitigated the risks as much as possible.”

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