Home » Air » Air Force » General’s wife: ‘Raptor Cough’ contributed to husband’s suicide

General’s wife: ‘Raptor Cough’ contributed to husband’s suicide

by Ward Carroll on August 27, 2012

Military.com’s lead story yesterday was written by Bob Cox of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, and in it Cox quotes Air Force Brig. Gen. “Pugs” Tinsley’s widow intimating a connection between the notorious F-22 oxygen issue and her husband’s suicide by gunshot to the chest back in 2008.  Here’s an excerpt:

In a lengthy interview with the Star-Telegram, Joanna Tinsley said her husband experienced big changes during the last few months of his life. He was normally a happy, highly energetic and caring man, but he deteriorated physically and emotionally.

“He was short-tempered. He was impatient. He would get mad at things that never would have agitated him before,” said Tinsley, who now lives in Phoenix.

“He was more foggy-headed. He would ask questions over and over again and then stare at you with a blank look.”

Tinsley suffered headaches, his appetite diminished, and he had trouble sleeping. He was plagued by a chronic cough, a common problem for F-22 pilots.

Now, after reading reports of strange occurrences involving other F-22 pilots and comparing notes with other wives, Tinsley said she can’t help but believe that the Air Force’s prized fighter is a health risk. Something about the F-22, she theorizes, may have triggered her husband’s suicide.

“They’re seeing the same things, the same changes that I saw in Tom,” Tinsley said.

The article goes on to mention that a few other Air Force wives — including those of pilots currently flying the Raptor — have noticed changes in their husbands’ health, including persistent coughs and loss of memory and motor skills.

Meanwhile the Air Force is sticking with their story that previous mishaps had something to do with a sticky valve in the pressure vest.  No root cause, per se; no “smoking gun.”

Where it’s not tragic it’s very weird …

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{ 73 comments… read them below or add one }

guess August 27, 2012 at 5:44 pm

This is just getting ridiculous.
How could someone not realize at any point that all the chemicals in/on the plane could be potentially toxic?
And now the same primary contractor is building the F35


ghostwhowalks August 27, 2012 at 5:51 pm

Who do you suggest we get to build the F-35 ? Blue Cross


guess August 28, 2012 at 2:22 am

Don’t be an idiot. I’m just making the case that having the company that for all intents and purposes seems to have delivered a defective product and then putting them in charge of a product 10 times the size of the one they couldn’t effectively accomplish is just ludicrous


daybrother August 28, 2012 at 5:08 am

You don't have any facts at all. Your comment has contributed nothing, explained nothing, advanced the knowledge of no one, implied that the F35 project will fail based on nothing and left yourself open to ridicule; all for nothing.


Peritus August 28, 2012 at 10:15 am

The F-35 project is already a failure. The $170B cost overrun has displaced funding for other urgent requirements in the defense portfolio, including fixing the F-22, and maintaining peoples' health. The longer it takes F-35 proponents to recognize this, the longer it will take to fix anything with regard to defense spending. We'll repeat the same mistakes in the projects to come after the F-35.

tiger August 28, 2012 at 6:05 am

LochMart is the final builder. There are 100's of sub contractors. They don't make engines or the oxygen system.


123456789 August 28, 2012 at 4:00 pm

I'll build the F35. Just give me a couple billion dollars and you'll see them um never.


ghostwhowalks August 27, 2012 at 5:57 pm

He was Wing and base commander at Elmendorf up to his death. The AF Times gave this as his potted bio ;He had served as an F-15 instructor pilot, F-15C test pilot, wing weapons officer, exchange officer and instructor with the Royal Australian Air Force.
His previous 22-month assignment was as executive officer to the Air Force chief of staff, Gen. T. Michael Moseley.

Dont see him having much time in the F-22 cockpit


Tiger August 27, 2012 at 8:16 pm

That does not sound like the resume of a suicidal type. Not many a guy with a Star on the collar are.


PrometheusGoneWild August 28, 2012 at 3:01 pm

To keep his fighter qualifications he would have still been flying a lot.
Not saying there could not have been mitigating health circumstances; not saying the F-22 did this to him, but he would have been spending time in the ****pit.
As for the "valve" explanation, it does not sit well with me.
Granted, not having a vest helping to keep blood up to your head could make problems. Especially if you are doing a lot of high G aerodynamics.
And if you are older like this fellow was and was not in great shape there could be brain injury.
A couple MRI's might get to the bottom of it…..I know they can "read" damage to the brain from boxing, football and IED's. Granted it would be a different type of damage but if it is permanent it could be found……


Menzie August 27, 2012 at 6:00 pm

Until a definitive smoking gun and solution is found I say ground the f@ckers and threaten Lockheed that we wont buy the f35. if they are a health risk then we cant opt out. I mean seriously this is fing insane. Our cream of the crop pilots committing suicide and coughing like stoners? Very professional. I wouldn't become a pilot if I knew I would be fling those 2 models unless they fixed the crap.


Menzie August 27, 2012 at 6:01 pm

*If they are a health risk we CAN opt out. darn spelling.


tiger August 28, 2012 at 6:07 am

Drone duty is looking better and better. 9-5 & no coughing.


Chuck August 29, 2012 at 5:48 am

Has there been any reports by anyone to suggest that the F-35 is having the same problem. Seems we have nearly two dozen flying by military pilots at several bases. Why would you stop a program that has to date not demonstrated the same problems? Just because the same contractor is involved does not mean the planes are built the same. All I can say is it is a good thing your not a pilot.


Menzie August 27, 2012 at 6:02 pm

Oh great camoflauge the F22 has, sticks out like a sore thumb against the sky.


blight_ August 28, 2012 at 12:28 pm

At BVR it really shouldn't matter what color you are…


doitagain August 29, 2012 at 9:04 am

Unless they're flying upside-down, you're not going to be looking at the top of the fighter.


Dagger029 September 18, 2012 at 2:30 am

Heh. That's funny. Actually, it looks like that particular bird doesn't have any paint. :) It's probably an old pic of the raptor from when it was still being tested.


Menzie August 27, 2012 at 6:05 pm

Oh ans whats the point of having any camo if you are going to highlight the edges of the plane darker than the rest. Camo is supposed to break up any regular lines, it sure works good there, I mean sor the price tag it should have state of the art visual camo too, not just EM.


jamFRIDGE August 27, 2012 at 7:14 pm

Why would it need visual camo? It moves so fast that by the time you see it are dead.


Chuck August 29, 2012 at 6:03 am

Do you even think before you write? The planes do not typically fly at grounds level. They are made to operate at nearly 65,000 feet, where the atmosphere is significantly different. On approach, they would usually be flying level, and not banking, providing a top on view. Looking at them would be like looking at the edge of a knife. From the ground, they are almost impossible to see with the unaided eye. From the statements that I have heard, even when they are within spitting range, radars still can't lock onto them. When you arfe looking from the top down on most plans, you don't have the sky as a background. Having darker camouflage on top makes perfect sense if you are trying to prefnt someone looking down at you against the land mass below. Flinally, you need to consider the effects on paint to sensors, which are usually along the edge of the plane. Those areas are often painted in a manner that the sensor is not affected by the paint.


BlackOwl18E August 27, 2012 at 7:17 pm

Hypoxia has been known to cause pilots to have the same symptoms that she is describing. I think what she said is very possible. Why hasn't the USAF grounded the F-22 fleet until the problem is solved? We really don't need these highly expensive jets flying right now and they certainly aren't doing anything against our current enemies. They should ground all the F-22s and have only 1 flying for tests to find the problem. Right now the USAF is forcing pilots to fly a plane that causes harm to its operators and risks hundred of millions of dollars as well as classified stealthy materials over where it flies. The most terrible risk is that to the pilots' lives. Why hasn't the USAF grounded the F-22s?


Amicus Curiae August 28, 2012 at 9:35 am

FYI from a CBS interactive business network business library web site, concerning Navy F-18 pilots: “…prolonged oxygen use can lead to the development of a condition known as acceleration atelectasis. Breathing 100% oxygen for an extended period, coupled with repeated high-G maneuvers while wearing a g-suit, may cause breathing difficulties and temporary lung injury. It’s a relatively uncommon occurrence with minimal long-term concerns, but bears mention in light of a recent physiologic occurrence ….”,


stephen russell August 27, 2012 at 8:39 pm

We dont ill pilots flying the F22, sorry NO.
Ground the plane, have them men fly other planes.


Amicus Curiae August 28, 2012 at 9:44 am

Flying military fighter jets is dangerous, even during training. Do you realize they are designed for combat, and if they go to war, F-22s are the best bet for pilot survival? What other planes are you referring to? I assume you are ready for the pilots to have less success in combat with those, provided they are safer in peacetime training, that is.


Hunter76 August 27, 2012 at 8:50 pm

"including persistent coughs and loss of memory and motor skills."

Sounds like growing old.


ltfunk2 August 27, 2012 at 9:20 pm

Corrupt contractor builds aircraft that poisons crew. General on the take signs off on it. Gormless pilot takes his own life rather than complain about it to an airforce that dosent want to know. Corrupt Contractor awarded another 100 million dollars to cover it all up.

now why would anyone want to kick up a fuss ?


Belesari August 27, 2012 at 11:08 pm

Um he was a general…..and hadnt been in a f-22……..


tiger August 28, 2012 at 6:21 am

Rating: Command pilot
Flight hours: More than 3,200
Aircraft flown: F-15A-D, F/A-18A and F-22A
Last duty: 3rd Wing Commander at Elmendorf Air Force Base


Vaporhead August 28, 2012 at 7:44 am

The Government is just as corrupt, if not more, then any of the contractors.


Amicus Curiae August 28, 2012 at 10:08 am

Corruption isn't always the reason for bad outcomes. Stuff happens! May I suggest moderating accusations that there is a conspiricy to murder pilots? In addition to the obvious absurdity of it, there are people that "signed off on it" because it was believed to be airworthy based on procedures involving analysis, ground testing and flight testing. That paper trail is not anonymous. Go ahead and kick up the fuss.


Dfens August 28, 2012 at 11:57 pm

There is an obvious conflict of interest within both the government and the defense contractor making the aircraft. Many jobs and billions of dollars are at stake, yet you feel comfortable saying that anyone who notices this conflict of interest is being absurd? Spoken like someone who has something to hide.


Amicus Curiae August 29, 2012 at 11:15 am

It is spoken like someone who has confidence in his own work and that of his colleagues. I have nothing to hide. Bring it on. I can tell it to the judge.


Chuck August 29, 2012 at 6:08 am

OK, you own a company, and you seriously would consider building a plane designed to poison the pilot on purpose? What is the point, especially if you lose business because of the problem. Problems happen, but if anyone seriously thinks LockMart plans to purposely poison pilots, they need to go in for some mental health check-ups. Stop being ignorant.


So? August 27, 2012 at 11:08 pm

The only other plane that consistently flies that high and fast is the MiG-31. What's the story there? OK, it has no OBOGS.


Praetorian August 28, 2012 at 8:01 pm

There is no other manned aircraft in the world that can turn 6 g's at 60,000 ft. except for the F-22. Can the Mig-31 even turn at speed ?? If it does, it most likley needs all of Ukrains airspace to turn north again :)

I thought that the initial target problem of the OBOGS, that the US Airforce was looking at was the G's the pilots were taking at those altitudes.


Stratege August 30, 2012 at 7:25 am

Mig-31 is capable to 5g turns. Also, MiG's interceptor is significantry faster than an F-22.


Praetorian August 30, 2012 at 2:03 pm

5g turns at 60,000 ft. ? I never doughted the Mig-31′s speed.


swdrumm August 27, 2012 at 11:10 pm

I've got a better one: Microprocessors manufactured in a foreign (*cough* China *cough*) country are engineered with a defect that intentionally screws with the oxygen system but only at random intervals. Think Stuxnet but at the hardware level.

USAF can't find the problem. Lockheed can't find the problem. The Raptor fleet is neutralized w/o a single shot being fired…


tiger August 27, 2012 at 11:35 pm

Cyber war while real, is not the issue here.


hank hill August 28, 2012 at 2:47 pm



NathanS August 27, 2012 at 11:47 pm

Agitated, irritable, diminished appetite, trouble sleeping and foggy headed are all symptoms of depression.

A cough and headache can be caused by any number of things including an allergic reaction to a new plant in the garden.

It's very hard to find a "smoking gun" here. All due respect and sympathy for the deceased family however – I know how hard it can be not to have closure.


Vaporhead August 28, 2012 at 2:56 pm

Depression could have been caused by the officer constantly being sick from the jet too. Very difficult to prove, and the government can afford better lawyers.


tiger August 28, 2012 at 6:30 am

Upon further reading, the guy was not fooling arround trying to die.

Weapon of choice?
"Investigators determined the cause of death was one gunshot wound to the chest with Tinsley’s personal weapon — a Smith & Wesson Model 500 .50-caliber revolver, which the manufacturer touts as the world’s most powerful revolver. The five-chamber weapon, found with Tinsley’s body, contained one spent shell casing and four empty chambers."

You don't need more than 1 with that cannon. http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/tltinsley.htm


KRG August 28, 2012 at 8:37 am

I'd be curious if he shot himself in the chest so they could study his brain like a lot of old NFL players are doing.


blight_ August 28, 2012 at 12:27 pm

Considering the possibility that hypoxia may have effects in the lungs, if you shoot yourself in the lung you may damage one of the organs that may be worth studying.

I suppose hemlock works…


dnav August 28, 2012 at 9:04 am

infrasound induced hypoxia symptoms have not been run to ground as a cause.


Tad August 28, 2012 at 10:57 am

Could be the F-22 did this to him. But this article sounds more like a newspaper trying to hype something up in order to get a story.


galloglas August 28, 2012 at 11:25 am

Well, the Democrats did want to cut the military, money and down grade the equipment so America cannot fight another war the democrats don't approve of.
four more of Obama and we will be flying F2F Brewster Buffalo's again.


blight_ August 28, 2012 at 12:23 pm

Sequestration (which was agreed on bipartisan) will do the trick.

However, it does seem rather strange that the money we used to stand up 15 divisions and a 500ish ship navy is somehow "not enough" in this day and age.

Perhaps it's the increasing pay for troops and healthcare, plus the increased costs of weapon systems. With economies of scale to bring kit costs down, JDAM kits have already paid off in using one bomb to do what a stick of bombs couldn't do before.


William C. August 28, 2012 at 3:20 pm

Inflation, smaller industry, higher pay and healthcare for military members, and the fact that a lot of that money is operation-specific funding.


blight_ August 28, 2012 at 12:26 pm


Acceleration atelectasis is the absorptional collapse of alveoli in the dependent lung due to increased accelerative forces. It is exacerbated by breathing 100% oxygen and, during +Gz exposure, by the use of an anti-G suit. Experiments were conducted on 12 subjects using simulated aerial combat maneuvers (SACM) with G profiles having peak exposures of either 4.5 G or 9 G. Decreases in vital capacity (VC) measurements were used as quantification of atelectasis, two types of reduction being identified and described. Labile reductions in VC were readily restored by a deep breath or cough. Such reduction approximated 28% following the 4.5-G SACM and 25% following the 9-G SACM. More persistent (so called) stable reductions were of lesser degree, values of -20% being seen following both 9 G and 4.5 G maneuvers. Acceleration atelectasis causes symptoms of chest pain, coughing, and shortness of breath. Subjective ratings of the severity of these symptoms were obtained from the subjects, and these were much greater following the 4.5-G SACM exposures than after the 9-G runs. Acceleration atelectasis was reduced by dilution of the inspired oxygen concentration by argon and nitrogen (evaluated at 95, 82.5, 70, 50, and 20% oxygen); the addition of unassisted positive pressure at 30 mm Hg (4 kPa) to the breathing mask; or the performance of the anti-G straining maneuver (AGSM).


BlackOwl18E August 28, 2012 at 3:15 pm

… Apparently, I have some reading to do.


blight_ August 28, 2012 at 4:28 pm

So do I.

This paper was published in 1987.

Funny how things stay buried…

I will have to figure out how to get a copy.


guest August 29, 2012 at 11:49 am

And now we another reason to thank the Creator for his wisdom in limiting the oxygen content of Earth's atmosphere to 28%. Oxygen is in reality a very deadly substance if misapplied, as demonstrated above.


blight_ August 31, 2012 at 3:35 pm

It's not the high oxygen, it's the acceleration. The high oxygen just makes it worse. For the rest of us who don't work at 9G, even at high O2 we won't develop "Raptor cough".


Matt August 28, 2012 at 12:52 pm

Lots of people here trolling for the USAF pin-heads. There is no excuse. I am almost sick to my stomach at these recurring headlines.


ghostwhowalks August 28, 2012 at 8:33 pm

Headlines are almost never correct. Nothing will compensate for his wifes loss, and the countrys. But it sounds like a personal injury lawyer is in the background here


Taylor August 28, 2012 at 3:08 pm

Maybe they should try having the chaplains bless the planes and pilots. I am serious. George Washington prayed for good reason. As a nation we used to understand how important these things were, but perhaps we've become techno-blinded.


Thomas L. Nielsen August 29, 2012 at 1:46 am

Honestly, I don't know what I find most scary and depressing: That you actually mean that, or that you're just trolling….

Regards & all,

Thomas L. Nielsen


Burner August 29, 2012 at 10:12 pm

With all sympathy to Mrs. Tinsley and her loss, I still hate finger-pointing in situations like this. It’s human nature to place blame when something bad happens–especially to a military widow that will not receive insurance benefits
due to a suicide. But, why is the blame directed at the aircraft? Yes, there are problems with it and others have experienced health problems. Aside from the chronic coughing, the rest of Gen. Tinsley’s abnormal actions were behavioral. Instead of blaming the aircraft for his actions, maybe his known affair with another woman and pending divorce played a significant role in his actions.
Again–my deepest sympathies to his widow and I extend condolences.


Tim August 29, 2012 at 10:43 pm

This plane is a disaster !

It has sucked the USAF budget , under delivered in all aspects , is a hanger queen due to its stealth covering has limited aspect Aesa radar coverage , missiles that don’t work at its operational altitude , poor data links , no passive infra red and poisons its pilots.

With senior US admirals doubting the military advantage of stealth in the long term the USAF is facing a future with two jets that are a threat to the West air superiority.


guess August 30, 2012 at 2:19 am

No I don’t think any one did any thing on purpose. That its ridiculous. I’m of the opinion that we tried so hard with pushing the envelope with the F22 that the consequences are the situation that we are currently finding, with these unexplained symptoms and hypoxia incidents. But instead of admitting there is a problem and taking the time to fix it. For whatever reason it is being buried. When things are getting bad enough that someone can make the claim that the plane caused there husband to commit suicide and people can believe it, clearly there is a problem. With the image of the plane at the very least


Lewis August 31, 2012 at 2:33 pm

When people with cognitive problems shoot themselves in the chest it is because they hope someone will examine their brain. The choose a slower and more painful death in the hopes of an answer being found.


Alan January 23, 2014 at 11:49 am

General Tinsley chose to shoot himself in the heart because among military leaders doing so is considered a more honorable way to commit suicide than shooting oneself in the head.


Jeff May 4, 2014 at 3:36 pm

I have heard the ceiling height is 20,000 feet due to the Chinese made Oxygen System (since the only thing we make now is pizza and fraudulent financial paper).


Amicus Curiae August 28, 2012 at 9:53 am

Self destructive demons can exist in high achievers, just as in losers. It is very personal. Not even Gen Tinsley's spouse understands it, and she is seeking an alternate explanation. She won't find what she is looking for by blaming machines and organizations. I am reminded of the story of Capt. Craig Button, which is equally inexplicable. http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/


Matt August 28, 2012 at 12:47 pm

*golf clap*


Vaporhead August 28, 2012 at 3:00 pm

the "pro military sheeple" that often frequents these boards will vote you down on your comment.


blight_ August 28, 2012 at 4:27 pm

Well, he did have Boston and Yorktown as wins. He lost New York and fought a running retreat to Philadelphia, lost that, fought and won, and when he lost he left the battlefield "in good order".

Gates won Saratoga and lost Camden. However, he had a decisive victory (Saratoga) and a decisive loss (Camden).

Washington had a number of minor victories and minor defeats, but never decisively got his army destroyed. As long as the Army In Being was still in shape, it denied operational freedom to the British.


blight_ August 28, 2012 at 4:41 pm

As of 3 hrs in, he's still at +/-0.


ghostwhowalks August 28, 2012 at 8:36 pm

Oh yes and he had the French !. Its often forgotten France was a co belligerent along with the young republic


ghostwhowalks August 28, 2012 at 8:38 pm

Oh yes , lets hope the french speaking Mitt Romney will recognise the contribution made by France


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