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back to article Pilots asking not to fly F-22 after oxygen problems

Some of the US Air Force's top pilots are asking not to fly the highest-tech aircraft in the fleet over fears about the safety of the oxygen system built into the F-22 Raptor. "It's shocking to me as a fighter pilot and former commander of Air Combat Command that a pilot would decline to get into that airplane," retired four- …

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Headmaster

You can get the PDF of the Alaska accident report at http://usaf.aib.law.af.mil/ExecSum2011/F-22A_AK_16%20Nov%2010.pdf

It makes very interesting reading.

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Anonymous Coward

Yo dudes...

... I'm sure there are lots of Air Force pilots drooling to replace the squeams who can't handle a bit of oxy dep in an F22. Meantime, I hear the puddle jumping commuter airlines are looking for a few good bus drivers.

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Re: Yo dudes...

We do see some moronic posts here, don't we?

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Raptor is NOT the highest-tech aircraft

Lighting III is.

F-22 is simply the deadleist in A-A combat.

But F-35 is an all-around more capable aircraft.

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Coat

Re: Raptor is NOT the highest-tech aircraft

It's the Lightning II, not III, just for clarity.

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Re: Raptor is NOT the highest-tech aircraft

And for muddiness, it's at least the 4th aircraft to have taken that name (P-38, English Electric, prototype YF-22, production F-35)... but yes, it is called the Lightning II (as was the YF-22)

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MJI
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Is the Lightning 2 as good as Lightning

Can it intercept U2s?

Can it catch an airliner from behind while said airliner is supercruising?

Can it climb at supersonic speeds?

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Re: Is the Lightning 2 as good as Lightning

I fear you are comparing JSF with a wrong kind of Lightning. The Lightning you are talking about is the English Electric Lightning - a British machine. The Lightning No.1 in the US case was Lockheed P-38 Lightning - the one that was chasing the Japs over the Pacific in WWII.

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Re: Raptor is NOT the highest-tech aircraft

"But F-35 is an all-around more capable aircraft."

I don't kno, I've already seen it brought down twice in compbat, each time by a single man jumping on top of it with little more than a hand gun. No wonder the entire JSF programme is in such a mess!

What do you mean, Die Hard IV and Avengers Assemble were not documentaries???

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Re: Is the Lightning 2 as good as Lightning

My dad was a fast jet pilot in the RAF. He has never been easily excitable, but he doesn't half wax lyrical about his days at a Lightning pilot. His favorite story is that when he was based in Cyprus there'd occasionally be Friday's where they hadn't got all their flying hours in during the week. They used to light cigarettes in the crew room, jump in their jets, point the noses to the sky and engage the after burners. It was possible to empty the tanks, land, taxi back and still be able to finish your cigarette before it burnt out. Legend.

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Re: Is the Lightning 2 as good as Lightning

I get the same stories from my father in law. Full tanks + afterburners = swim in the sea 6 minutes later. Awesome.

Or how they used to clear ice off the runways using the engine from a meteor, like a massive hair dryer. Which, if you focused on one spot too long, used to lift the tarmac right off.

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Re: Is the Lightning 2 as good as Lightning

I love stories like that. We were so great at making things, never mind hey, nothing lasts forever.

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WTF?

Re: Raptor is NOT the highest-tech aircraft

Aside from the optional tail hook & VTOL, what does the Lightning have that the F-22 doesn't? the electronics, much like everything else was borrowed from the F-22 design and made smaller/cheaper. & they are still trying to figure out how to keep the lightning from falling apart.

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Yag
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Headmaster

"where they hadn't got all their flying hours in during the week."

mmmh...

If you are lacking HOURS of flight, what is the point of doing such short flights?

DISCLAIMER : I assume that the lightning was not going near relativistic speeds...

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Happy

Re: Is the Lightning 2 as good as Lightning

One of the very first Lightning squadron pilots, John Houghton, had this to say after his first flight in the aircraft.

"I was with it all the way until I let the brakes off......."

Sadly the consequences of Sandys 1957 myopia meant that the Lightning was never developed and its weapon system hardly advanced during its years in service.

Watching a rotation takeoff was an experience. Two Lightnings did this at Mildenhall in the late 80s, climbing into a blue sky on their departure while everyone was queueing to get out in their cars. Even the following F-15 couldn't catch them up despite it being 20+ years newer in concept.

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Re: Is the Lightning 2 as good as Lightning

@Ed 11

So that was probably the Lightning F6 your dad was flying, that's 'F' for fuel, '6' for 6-minutes worth.

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Headmaster

Re: "where they hadn't got all their flying hours in during the week."

@Yag what is the point of doing such short flights?

A lot of high performance aircraft of this era were designed to fulfil the 'point interceptor' role, there mission profile was for the rapid intersection of Russian bombers either over the north sea, Canada or the Artic where they used their high rates of climb (typically only taking 2-3 minutes to reach 40,000 ft) and supersonic speeds to close with their targets and shoot them down with there relatively light load of 2 missiles.

The modern concept of the multi-role air superiority fighter came much later.

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Anonymous Coward

Fail!

This is an IT relevant story but sadly El Reg missed it ... you might want to ask yourselves why there are O2 problems ...

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Joke

Re: Fail!

Lack of investment in densly populated area, usually with 3G connectivly...

Oh that O2

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F-22 and Annoxia / Hypoxia

What both the manufacturers and the USAF (amazingly) refuse to accept is that the onset of annoxia (low oxygen partial pressure) is an insidious process which is NOT noted by the pilot, particularly at high altitude where the condition rapidly transits to hypoxia (lack of oxygen).

One of the first results of annoxia is a "good feeling" - "I'm okay and I'm doing just fine".

That translates to "I do NOT know that I am suffering from a lack of oxygen". And the pilot probably does NOT know. That faculty of the brain which deals with self criticism and self evaluation and evaluation of options by default needs a 100% oxygen flow to realize it is not receiving 100% oxygen. The dichotomy must be clear.

The workload in a fighter cockpit is high. If the aircraft was engaged in route flying on auto pilot like passenger jets then maybe the pilot would realise a problem was occurring. High "G" maneuvring against an adversary in combat causes hyperventilation. If this hyperventilated intake is lacking in oxygen then consciousness is lost before the human being would have been able to even recognize his dilemma.

Now the emergency oxygen appears to be from that small cylinder which is attached to the ejection seat to allow the pilot to remain conscious should he need to eject at altitude: in such an instance he remains in the ejection seat down to about 16,000 ft above sea level before separating and when his 'chute opens.

To expect that the semi-unconscious pilot would a) recognize his hypoxic condition, b) remembers where the difficult to reach lever of the seat cylinder is, c) reach down and activate it, d) wait for his condition to stabilize, all during a 40,000 ft per minute dive and before impact is somewhat reckless. Particularly if there IS a known design problem with the main oxygen generation system - but pilots are being criticized for not activating the emergency system when this known fault in the main system occurs. They simply can not.

This is a dangerous, unprecedented design error.

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Bronze badge

Re: F-22 and Anoxia / Hypoxia

What I remember is John Noakes getting training from the RAF before making a high-altitude parachute jump. They gave him experience of anoxia, in a way that demonstrated just how much he didn't realise he was suffering the effects.

I'm not claiming to be any sort of expert, but that memory makes me wonder what's wrong with the higher ranks in the USAF. Not every pilot would make a good ngeneral, but that's why you need pilots in the higher ranks. Or maybe Blue Peter viewers.

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Boffin

Re: F-22 and Annoxia / Hypoxia

"This is a dangerous, unprecedented design error."

The OBOGS is the design error. Apart from a stupid acronym (Would you fly in an aircraft, no matter how good, if the avionics suite was designated EL-CHEAPO-CLUSTERFUK?) it's clear that whatever chemical-based tech they are using (some nasty peroxides most likely) doesn't like either high altitude operation, negative Gs, positive Gs, vibration, heat, cold or all of the above. Or was built by the cheapest bidder, and is overly complex and difficult to maintain, is poorly cooled so it overheats, has pipes and ducting made out of incompatible materials which corrode etc. etc. etc. all the REALLY BASIC STUFF engineers are meant to take into account for a mission-critical item.

If and when the details of the faults in the OBOGS are revealed, they will of course be obvious, simple and likely down to the kind of faults RR have in their A380 engines (bad bearings in that case - probably an $800 part out of an $8x10^6 engine)

When it comes down to it, the whole bloody F22 is a design error - it only won the competition due to pork-barreling.

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Boffin

Re: F-22 and Annoxia / Hypoxia

EL-CHEAPO-CLUSTERFUK

Electronic Logistic Computer Helping to Enhance Aerodynamic Position Options in Combat with Live User Selected Target Evasion, Return Fire and Unpredictable jinKing.

No more unlikely than any other acronym I've seen.

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Pint

Re: F-22 and Annoxia / Hypoxia

That's genius!

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Re: F-22 and Annoxia / Hypoxia

</salute>

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Mushroom

Re: F-22 and Annoxia / Hypoxia

OBOGS is NOT new technology... and you do NOT need chemicals for it either... Use a MSOC (Molecular Sieve Oxygen Concentrator) for concentrating the oxygen from the engine bleed air supply. What is the problem here is that the system itself is not responding to a reduced concentration of oxygen in the supply to the pilot and raising an alarm... there are basic design errors here that should have been picked up in the design process...

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Bronze badge

Re: F-22 and Annoxia / Hypoxia

Further to my above. After reading through the mishap report... it is my firm belief that they were desperate to blame the pilot and not the aircraft design...

"By clear and convincing evidence, I find the cause of the mishap was the MP's failure to

recognize and initiate a timely dive recovery due to channelized attention, breakdown of

visual scan and unrecognized spatial disorientation."

That conclusion is rubbish... the OBOGS should have been designed with a back-up oxygen supply (bottled oxygen) which should have activated when the OBOGS FAIL caption triggered. And the Emergency Oxygen Supply activation design was a disaster waiting to happen... that ring and wedge design is monumentally stuffed up...

The pilot was doing what he was supposed to do, following the checklist, and most likely lost consciousness while desperately trying to activate the EOS in the dark with the ring down in the worst possible place to put it... By the time he recovered consciousness and started the recovery maneuver, it was too late to pull out...

PS. The oxygen system on the aircraft I work with is an OBOGS system and it has a Back-up Oxygen Supply (BOS) that is automatically activated if the OBOGS warning is triggered. The BOS can also be manually activated by the pilot by a normal guarded switch selection (lift cover, operate switch). In addition to the OBOGS and BOS, each pilot also has a bottle emergency oxygen supply which is automatically activated upon ejection and can also be manually activated by the pilot by simply lifting a guillotine type handle at the front left edge of his seat... (very easy to find and easy to activate when required...).

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Re: F-22 and Annoxia / Hypoxia

You deserve an award or that :)

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Boffin

Re: F-22 and Annoxia / Hypoxia

Contrived Unsuitable Technical Names for Projects with the Acronym as Sole Target for the Effort.

aka CUTNPASTE naming.

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"We are generally aware of a small number of pilots who have expressed reservations about flying the F-22, and each of those cases will be handled individually through established processes,"

Court martial then..

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Is there NOTHING that America can do right?

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Headmaster

Think about it...

Yes.

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Windows

Yeah.

Got blokes to the moon. Maybe.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Yeah.

> Got blokes to the moon. Maybe.

They needed a German to help them do that...

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Coat

Design iPods!

Oh no hang on... ;-)

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This post has been deleted by its author

Coat

I know ...

One thing Americans can do right every time on the first try.

Fuck things up.

Mines the one with the US passport in the pocket.

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Boffin

Re: Yeah.

Got blokes to the moon

But look what happened on Apollo 13, the CO2 filters in the LEM were a different shape from the ones in the command module and they had to jury rig a Heath Robinson contraption out manual covers and duct tape to use the command module filters in the LEM.

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Coat

Solution

While staying in air-raid shelters several meters under ground we used to have a "candle guard" - the theory was that the candle needs a higher percentage of oxygen to burn than soldiers needed to survive. How difficult can it be to put a candle in the cockpit?

Yeah, mine's the one without the air force badge...

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Re: Solution

The sensor will have to be in the pilot's oxygen mask. BUT: there has never been an oxygen supply problem with any fighter ever before so the need for supply sensors was not needed and should never be needed.

Like the engine, the oxygen supply should not stop suddenly. Full stop.

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Coat

Re: Solution

Well clearly a candle would be dangerously stupid in fighter cockpit.

I suggest using a canary instead.

Ok, you don't have to shove, I'm leaving!

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Re: Solution

@Wombling_Free: well, we also tried it with canaries. Problem was, the canaries went a bit frantic when we lit them.

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Re: Solution

genius - and as long as it kep flying it would add no weight to the aircraft.....

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Coat

Re: the canaries went a bit frantic when we lit them.

Have you put the cat out?

Sorry; I didn't know it was on fire/

<queuing up for the cloakroom>

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Vic
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Re: Solution

> The sensor will have to be in the pilot's oxygen mask.

That's not difficult. O2 sensors are small and light.

Might be interesting getting one to work at high-G, though :-)

Vic.

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Headmaster

Re: Solution (stu4 @09:44GMT)

I think that is only true if the canopy is open. It would add weight if it inside a closed space.

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Coat

Re: the canaries went a bit frantic when we lit them.

Have you put the cat out?

Sorry; I didn't know it was on fire/

<queuing up for the cloakroom>

STOP THAT!! Certainly, which way did it go?

Damm, I've lost my cloakroom ticket.

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Interesting BBC documentry about altitude

The BBC did a programme called To Boldly Go which looked into the body at altitude. I already knew quite a lot about what happens and he missed out some elements I'd thought important (such as why you really should have a pressure suit above 65k feet) but overall well worth watching.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b019x6qr

Military pilots don't just hop into their 'office', they are highly trained in the technicalities of flight and the body so should be able to make a good judgement call. There is always risks in military flying but the pilot does deserve an airworthy plane at the very least.

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Re: Interesting BBC documentry about altitude

Thanks for the link, I don't mind watching these types of programs although i do know about partial pressures etc due to SCUBA diving with Enriched Air (Nitrox).

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