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The Military

Air Force Claims To Have Solved Fatal F-22 Oxygen Riddle 172

Hugh Pickens writes "DefenseTech reports that Air Force Maj. Gen. Charles Lyon, the director of operations for Air Combat Command, told the Pentagon press corps that a valve that inflates the Combat Edge upper pressure garment is the cause of hypoxia-like symptoms in pilots flying the F-22. The problem forced the service to ground the Air Force's most prized stealth fighter fleet for four months and led two Raptor pilots to tell the nation on CBS's 60 Minutes that they refused to fly the jet because the pilots feared for their lives. The vests help control the breathing of pilots in high G-force environments, inflating before pilots start to experience extreme G-force conditions. However Lyon explained that the valves caused the vests to inflate too early in an F-22 flight, causing pilots to hyperventilate in the cockpits. 'It's like putting a corset around your chest,' said Lyons. Eagle and Viper pilots stopped wearing the upper pressure garments in 2004 'because they were not giving us the contribution we thought they would,' said Lyon. F-22 pilots kept wearing them because they flew at higher altitudes and the vests protected the pilots from 'rapid decompression,' adding that F-22 pilots, many of whom flew the F-15 and F-16, didn't notice the vests had inflated early because of the layers of gear a pilot wears in flight. Such a simple answer to a problem that has eluded Air Force engineers and scientists for four years has left some Air Force pilots skeptical that the USAF has solved the problem. An F-16 pilot said the Air Force is either 'incompetent for missing this until now,' or 'dishonest and trying to sweep something under the rug.'"

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