Air Force Admits Wrong in Nixing F-22 Fighter Safety System


Days after ABC News requested comment from the Air Force and from the jet's primary manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, on the internal document, Lockheed Martin settled a wrongful death lawsuit that had been filed by Jeff Haney's widow, Anna. The lawsuit alleged Lockheed Martin and other defense contractors had knowingly provided the Air Force with "defective" and "dangerous" planes. The Air Force was not named as a defendant in the suit and Lockheed Martin said at the time it was filed that while Jeff Haney's death was a tragedy, the company disagreed with Anna Haney's claims.

It wasn't until this May that an Air Force Scientific Advisory Board suggested the service provide the F-22 with an automatic back-up oxygen system. The next month, the Air Force awarded Lockheed Martin a $19 million contract to retrofit the first batch of 40 jets in the fleet with the new automatic system. At the congressional hearing, Gen. Lyon said the entire fleet is expected to be outfitted with the new back-up system by mid-2014.

In addition to Haney's crash, the advisory board had been convened to help explain why, on more than two dozen occasions, F-22 pilots were experiencing "hypoxia-like symptoms" in the cockpit of the advanced fighters. The Air Force has since claimed it has identified the primary problem -- a malfunctioning pressure vest -- but the Air Force officials who testified before Congress admitted that they still don't know exactly what is physically going on with the pilots. Several oxygen-related conditions share a majority of their symptoms and each pilot's account can be different from the others, so a single ailment has been difficult to nail down, they said.

"There will be physiological incidents in the future," Lyon said. "We encounter physiological incidents in all high performance aircraft. It's a fact of life, due to the demands placed on our air crew. The measures taken by the Air Force, in my opinion, will reduce the incident rate significantly and, over time, bring the F-22 incident rates in line with comparable high-performance fighter aircraft."

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