The Air Force is investigating the cause of an F-22 Raptor crash near an air base in Florida, but an official with the service told ABC News it was likely not related to mysterious and potentially deadly oxygen problems that plagued the $420 million-a-pop war planes for years – problems the Air Force believes it has already solved.
The Air Force announced Thursday afternoon that an F-22 pilot had managed to bail out of his $420 million fighter jet before the crash near Tyndall Air Force Base. The Air Force official told ABC News the pilot is in “good shape” and has been speaking with investigators about the crash.
“Initial indications are, from talking to the pilot and from analyzing initial evidence… [that] it doesn’t look like it was related to any physiological problems,” the official said.
He said the pilot did not report any physiological problems and the crash didn’t seem to be related to “any of the life support system issues,” emphasizing that the Air Force will not know for sure what caused the crash until a full investigation has been completed.
The F-22 jet, America’s single most expensive fighter at around $420 million apiece, was the subject of a year-long ABC News investigation that looked into why several of the advanced jets’ pilots were experiencing symptoms of oxygen deprivation in mid-air, experiences the Air Force often referred to as physiological incidents. While the experience was relatively rare – the Air Force reported more than a couple dozen since 2008 – they were bad enough that the Air Force grounded the entire fleet of planes for five months last year to investigate and then placed strong safety restrictions on the planes when they put them back in the air. The Air Force has since announced that it believes it has solved the mystery problem.
The ABC News investigation also examined the death of Capt. Jeff Haney, an F-22 pilot who died a minute after a malfunction in his plane cut off his oxygen. Despite the malfunction, the Air Force blamed Haney for the crash. In the course of the investigation, ABC News obtained an Air Force test document that showed the service had been warned of a potentially deadly flaw in the F-22 oxygen system design a decade before it played a direct role in Haney’s death.
Thursday’s crash occurred the same day the Air Force reportedly released the results of their investigation into another F-22 crash at Tyndall. The pilot in that crash, which occurred in May, was able to bail out and save himself as well. In its report, the Air Force blamed the May crash on pilot error, according to a report by the Air Force Times.