For the first time the widow of an F-22 Raptor fighter pilot killed after his $420 million plane malfunctioned has lashed out publicly at the Defense Department and its private contractors, claiming it was their "incompetence" that caused her husband's death.
Anna Haney, the wife of the late Capt. Jeff Haney, released the statement to ABC News this week in response to a report published last week by the Pentagon's Inspector General. The IG's report said the Air Force did not have the facts to support its earlier conclusion that Capt. Haney was at fault for the crash that claimed his life more than two years ago.
"I am gratified that the Inspector General has confirmed what we knew all along. The cause of the death of my beloved husband and the father of my children was not pilot error, it was incompetence by the Defense Department and its contractors," Anna Haney said. "The F-22 is not ready to serve its country, but my husband Jeffrey Haney was and he gave his life to demonstrate that brave men will serve while the cowards in the military-industrial complex systematically loot our Treasury to build inferior equipment upon which our servicemen and women stake their lives every day."
Anna Haney's statement was her first since her husband's November 2010 death. The controversial crash was the centerpiece of an ABC News' "Nightline" investigation into the troubled F-22 Raptor that aired May 2, 2012.
Capt. Haney was killed during a routine training mission in Alaska on Nov. 16, 2010 shortly after his plane malfunctioned and his oxygen system shut down completely.
After investigating the incident for more than a year, the Air Force released an Accident Investigation Board (AIB) report in December 2011 that said that while Haney likely suffered a "sense similar to suffocation" before he died, he was still to blame for the crash because he was too distracted to fly the plane properly. Perhaps he was struggling to activate the manual emergency oxygen back-up system, the AIB report said.
Haney's family immediately called the Air Force's findings into question and, in an exclusive interview in May 2012, Haney's sister Jennifer told ABC News that by blaming her brother, the Air Force showed it was more interested in protecting its $79 billion F-22 program than its airmen.
"To them, Jeff was a number, it feels like sometimes. But those jets are worth a lot of money," she said then.
In her recent statement, Anna Haney said that when the Air Force informed her of their findings in 2011, she told the Air Force official delivering the news that he "should be ashamed of turning his back on [her] husband's memory."
In March 2012 Anna Haney filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the F-22's primary manufacturer, defense contracting giant Lockheed Martin, and other private corporations involved in the plane's production, alleging they knowingly provided the Air Force with a dangerous, defective aircraft. Neither the Air Force nor the Department of Defense were named in the legal action.
The suit was settled in August 2012 under undisclosed terms, days after ABC News began asking Lockheed Martin and the Air Force questions about an internal F-22 testing group memo that called attention to a potentially deadly design flaw in the plane's oxygen system a decade before Haney's death.
After the Air Force crash report was published, the Pentagon's Inspector General said it was launching a rare review of the Air Force investigation to "verify that [the Air Force's] conclusions are supported by evidence of record consistent with standards of proof." It was the first major crash review conducted by the IG since the mid-1990s.
Last week the IG completed its review and while it did not say who or what was definitely to blame for the crash, it said the Air Force's conclusions were at times contradictory, incomplete or "not supported by the facts."
"The AIB report lacked detailed analysis of several areas," the IG report also said.
When the Air Force was informed of the IG's conclusions, the service said it convened a separate task force to review the AIB report. The task force found that while some portions of the AIB could have been written more clearly, it stood by the original accounting of the cause of the crash.
"That group of experts validated the AIB's conclusions," an Air Force spokesperson told ABC News last week.
The spokesperson said the service would rewrite portions of its crash report to clarify certain points raised by the IG's report.
Still, Anna and Jennifer Haney said their family has been vindicated by the IG's report.
"Now, too late, we and the world know that Jeffrey Haney was one of the best and the brightest fighter pilots in the United States Air Force," Anna Haney said.
The F-22 Raptor is America's single most expensive fighter jet, costing an estimated $420 million each and part of a $79 billion-and-counting program. The jets, which have yet to be sent on a combat mission, for years were plagued with a mysterious oxygen-related problem in which on rare occasions its pilots would report experiencing the symptoms of oxygen deprivation in mid-flight. The Air Force believes it has solved that problem.
Anna Haney is not convinced that the planes are safe to fly and said she believes "our pilots are still at risk."
Lockheed Martin referred requests for comment for this report to the Air Force, which declined to comment further on the IG's report or on Anna Haney's allegations.