Air Force officials continue to conduct an Aircraft Oxygen Generation study, with members of the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board taking the leading role.
Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley directed the quick look study in the wake of recent F-22 Raptor incidents.
Officials seek to identify a common thread among the incidents and will report their findings to senior Air Force leaders to help prevent such incidents from occurring in the future.
In a July 13 memorandum to the secretary of defense, Secretary Donley noted that pilots flying the F-22 have reported in-flight, physiological events at a rate three times higher than crews from other similar aircraft. The symptoms are similar to those resulting from an inadequate oxygen supply which affected the performance of the pilots experiencing them in varied ways.
“The Air Force takes flying-related incidents seriously. We met with leaders, operators and maintainers in the F-22 community to talk about the Scientific Advisory Board’s oxygen generation study,” said Lt. Gen. “Hawk” Carlisle, the deputy chief of staff for Operations, Plans and Requirements, Headquarters U.S. Air Force. “As part of the meeting we were able to provide the latest information on the status of the study and address their concerns regarding a timely return to fly.”
“This board is the secretary’s brain trust,” said Lt. Col. Matthew Zuber, the Air Force SAB executive director. “It utilizes the nation’s best scientists and engineers to advise Air Force senior leadership on science and technology issues.”
The SAB, composed of special government employees, works with Air Force officials to conduct three to five studies per year and advises the secretary and the chief of staff on the findings, Zuber said.
Zuber added the Air Force has expanded the scope of the scientific investigation beyond the F-22 to include such platforms as the F-35 Lightning II, T-6A Texan II, F-16 Fighting Falcon and the A-10 Thunderbolt II. The study has incorporated extensive ground testing and limited flight testing as well.
The SAB study panel investigation is supported by the F-22 System Program Office, the Air Force Safety Center, industry partners, Naval Air Systems Command and Air Force Research Labs.
“We’re all in the same room and not holding back any effort to determine whether these events are related to hypoxia, air contaminants or other factors,” Zuber said, adding that no possibilities have been eliminated.
This particular investigation, Zuber explained, involves a strong fact-finding analysis with deliberation among a cross-section of experts.
The study will benefit from technical data generated by flight test activities conducted at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., laboratory tests conducted by Air Force Research Labs, and contractor personnel, he said.
“The zero-risk solution is not to fly, and that’s not a long-term option; it’s an inherently dangerous business to fly and fight wars,” Zuber said. “We want to make sure we mitigate risks to a level that’s appropriate for the urgency of the mission.”
The SAB AOG study plans to provide the Air Force secretary and Air Force chief of staff interim reports prior to the final report projected for later this fall. Once complete, the product will be releasable to the general public.
Until the report is submitted, it would be inappropriate to speculate on potential outcomes of the study, Zuber said.