March 13, 2012 -- The widow of the F-22 Raptor pilot who died after a malfunction in his jet cut off his oxygen system during a training mission in Alaska is suing the F-22 manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, and other major defense contracting companies for wrongful death, negligence and fraud.
Anna Haney, wife of the late Capt. Jeff Haney, filed a complaint in an Illinois court Monday alleging Lockheed knowingly sold the U.S. Air Force "dangerous and defective" planes that did not provide life support systems "that would allow our pilots to survive even routine training missions, such as the one that killed" Haney, according to a report by the Courthouse News Service.
In addition to Lockheed Martin, the suit names other major defense contractors such as Boeing, Honeywell International and Pratt and Whitney -- all involved in various aspects of the F-22's systems -- as defendants. The complaint also alleges that the U.S. Air Force has awarded Lockheed Martin millions of dollars on a new contract to investigate and solve ongoing problems with the planes' life support systems.
The planes, which cost the government a total of $77.4 billion for over 180 planes, have yet to be used in combat from Iraq and Afghanistan to Libya even though they were declared combat ready in late 2005. Though the Air Force has said they were simply not an operational necessity, since at least 2008 the planes have also suffered from a mysterious, recurring problem apparently stemming from the oxygen system in which several pilots have reported experiencing "hypoxia-like symptoms" in mid-air.
A Lockheed Martin spokesperson told ABC News they "do not agree" with the allegations in the suit.
"The loss of the pilot and aircraft in November 2010 was a tragic event and we sympathize with the family for their loss. We are aware that a complaint that makes a variety of claims associated with the accident has been filed... We do not agree with those allegations and we will respond to them through the appropriate legal process," the spokesperson said.
F-22 Raptor Cuts Off Pilot's Oxygen Before Crash
Capt. Jeff Haney was killed in November 2010 when, after completing a training mission over the Alaskan wilderness, a malfunction in his $143 million plane caused his oxygen system to shut off completely, causing him to experience "a sense similar to suffocation," according to the Air Force's investigative report into the incident. Haney's plane entered a sharp dive and, seconds later, crashed, spreading debris more than a quarter mile.
After more than a year-long investigation into the crash, the Air Force concluded that he was at fault for crashing the plane.
"The [investigation] board president found, by clear and convincing evidence, the cause of the mishap was the [pilot's] failure to recognize and initiate a timely dive recovery due to channelized attention, breakdown of visual scan, and unrecognized spatial disorientation," the December 2011 report said, essentially saying Haney was too distracted by the lack of oxygen to fly the plane properly. The report also noted other contributing factors in the crash but said it was still a mystery as to what caused the original malfunction.
When testifying before Congress last week, however, Air Force chief of staff Gen. Norton Schwartz denied the Air Force had blamed Haney. "We did not assign blame to the pilot," Schwartz said. "… This was a complex contingency that he did his best to manage and, in the end, we lost aircraft control."
In addition to Haney's crash, the Air Force has also been investigating the source of a mysterious, recurring problem in which pilots in the F-22 cockpit have reported experiencing "hypoxia-like symptoms" in mid-air. Last year the full fleet of the planes were grounded for five months while the Air Force tried to find out what was wrong, but they were unable to identify any single problem and have allowed the planes back in the air.
Still, the problem persists. In the six months since the planes have returned to the sky, there have been at least nine more instances of pilots reporting the hypoxia-like symptoms, according to the Air Force. Hypoxia occurs when the brain is deprived of oxygen and can cause dizziness, confusion and lack of judgment.
An Air Force spokesperson told ABC News the service was aware of the suit but declined to comment at this time.