Fresh on the heels of yesterday’s announcement by the Air Force that it thinks the hypoxia-like symptoms suffered by F-22 Raptor pilots may be caused by the jets high-altitude performance, reports are emerging that ground crew are also suffering from similar ailments when they stand near the jet while it’s engines are running. Interesting.
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.
I imagine that the service is looking at the rates of sickness for ground crew of other jets to make sure that the Raptor maintainers are actually suffering from something unique to the stealth jet. If they are, it seems to indicate that the problem is indeed related to contaminates emanating from the plane rather than a lack of oxygen getting to the pilots during flight. Just yesterday, one of the Air Force’s top acquisitions officials, Lt. Gen. Janet Wolfenbarger told Senators that the service suspects that the F-22’s On-Board Oxygen Generating Systems (OBOGS) are either feeding the pilots contaminated air or aren’t giving them enough air to breath. She added that the problem may be related to the extreme altitudes that Raptors routinely execute high-G maneuvers in. Needless to say, this latest news puts an interesting twist on that claim.
Apparently, F-22 ground crew have been issued canisters designed to take air samples whenever they feel the onset of hypoxia.