The Air Force’s F-22 Raptor stealth fighters poison or suffocate their pilots nearly 27 times per 100,000 flight hours — a rate at least nine times higher than other fighters and far worse than anyone outside of the military previously realized. That shocking revelation comes from two lawmakers, Sen. Mark Warner and Rep. Adam Kinzinger, who have been aggressively pursuing the cases of Air Force pilots that are getting choked on the job.
Despite the damning figures, the Pentagon insists that temporary measures — including altitude limits and revised flight suits — have made the $377-million-a-copy F-22 safe to fly. “Right now the aircraft is performing very well in an operational setting,” Capt. John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, said last week. “We’re just going to continue to watch this as we move forward.”
Apparent oxygen shortages, or hypoxia, have plagued the high-flying Raptor for years, and may even have contributed to a fatal crash in Alaska in 2010. As more pilots and even ground crew began complaining of mysterious symptoms including blackouts, last year the Air Force grounded the approximately 180-strong Raptor fleet for four months so Lockheed Martin and Boeing, two of the plane’s manufacturers, could investigate the F-22′s systems.