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F-22 Pilots Found With Anti-Freeze, Propane in Bloodstream, Fleet Grounded

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A startling report out today from the Project on Government Oversight reveals more problems with the Air Force's F-22 program:

According to the Air Force Times, blood tests of F-22 pilots showed a host of chemicals, including anti-freeze, propane and burned polyalphaolefin, a synthetic oil, after flights where they reported experiencing cognitive problems.

These toxins, along with carbon monoxide, may be causing hypoxia, which is a lack of oxygen. Hypoxia can cause reduced brain function and memory loss. F-22 pilots reported being unable to remember how to change radio frequencies and scraping treetops when approaching the runway. In November 2010, an F-22 crashed in Alaska and the pilot, Capt. Jeffrey Haney, was killed. Sources told the Air Force Times that in his final radio calls he sounded drunk, a symptom of hypoxia.

“There is a lot of nasty stuff getting pumped into the pilots’ bloodstream through what they’re breathing from that OBOGS [On-Board Oxygen Generation System]. That’s fact,” one former F-22 pilot tells Dave Majumdar of the Air Force Times. “How bad it is, what type it is, exactly how much of it, how long -- all these things have not been answered.”

The source, who requested anonymity "for fear of retribution," continued:

"These guys are getting tested for toxins and they’ve [gotten] toxins out of their bloodstreams. One of the guys was expelling propane."

In the meantime, Air Force officials say that "some test pilots at the base are flying their jets under a special waiver granted to them to test an unrelated software upgrade."

The operational fleet, however, remains grounded, the Air Force Times' Majumdar writes, "with pilots and ground crews practicing in simulators as much as they can."

But, he explains that "is not a real solution because the pilots won’t be able to maintain currency."

As another former F-22 pilot pointed out, “After 210 days, they’ve got to start retraining everybody."

At $350 million per plane (and $44,000/hr to operate), you'd think this sort of thing would be covered under warranty.
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