We knew the F-22 has a mysterious problem that causes breathing problems in pilots. Well, the plot is now thickening. It seems that ground crews are having hypoxia-like symptoms too and, of course, we don't have a clue about what's causing this.
At least five ground maintainers complained of illness between September and December, Air Combat Command spokesman Lt. Col. Tadd Sholtis said in an Air Force Times article that hit the newsstands Monday. The maintainers grew sick after breathing in ambient air during ground engine runs, a congressional aide told Air Force Times.
This really puts the F-22's problem under a completely new light. Rather than the oxygen system, this may be related to some kind of contaminant that affects both the pilots and the ground crews.
The Air Force F-22 investigation board spent seven months of costly research trying to detect why pilots have hypoxia. Their conclusion: we have no clue about what the exact problem may be. Presenting their report to a Senate committee, Lt Gen Janet Wolfenbarger said that they think the Raptor's On-Board Oxygen Generating Systems are not giving pilots enough air at high altitude and under high-G manoeuvres. Or that this air may be contaminated.
If the ground crew incidents continue, the problem's source may be elsewhere. [Defense Tech]