After a quick succession of safety scares in the last days of April and the beginning of May in 2011, the Air Force grounded the full fleet of F-22s while it investigated the "physiological events" the pilots had reported. But after nearly five months of intense testing and evaluation that produced no smoking gun, the Air Force cautiously allowed the planes back in the air.
The problem, however, has persisted. In at least nine other incidents since the grounding, pilots have reported the "hypoxia-like" symptoms, according to the Air Force. Hypoxia is caused when the brain is deprived of oxygen, causing disorientation, dizziness, poor judgment, and, eventually, unconsciousness.
Jones said that flying all fighter planes is dangerous, but maintained that even though the problem has not been solved, pilots are "absolutely not" being put at additional, unnecessary risk by flying training and homeland security missions in the planes.
"Pilots are at risk every time that we strap an airplane on… [W]hat we do is critical to our nation," Jones said. "And we are in full belief that the steps that are in place by Air Combat Command, the recommendations that General Martin's board came up with, have given us a very safe airplane while we work to ultimately determine what the root cause is. This airplane is safe and capable of flying."