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Monday, September 26, 2011

F-22 Raptor Returns to Service

The Air Force's F-22 Raptors returned to service last week, after a four-month stand down.

The commander of Air Combat Command directed a stand-down of the fleet May 3 as a safety precaution, following 12 separate reported incidents where pilots experienced hypoxia-like symptoms. The incidents occurred over a three-year period beginning in April 2008. The return-to-fly plan implements several risk mitigation actions, to include rigorous inspections, training on life support systems, and continued data collection.

"We now have enough insight from recent studies and investigations that a return to flight is prudent and appropriate," said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz . "We're managing the risks with our aircrews, and we're continuing to study the F-22's oxygen systems and collect data to improve its performance."

The Air Force said the entire fleet will undergo an extensive inspection of the life support systems before returning to flight, with follow-on daily inspections. The aircraft is capable and authorized to fly above 50,000 feet. Pilots will use additional protective equipment and undergo baseline physiological tests. The return-to-fly process will begin with instructor pilots and flight leads regaining their necessary proficiency, then follow with other F-22 wingmen.

"It's exciting to see the F-22 Raptor back in the skies," said Jeff Babione, vice president and general manager of Lockheed Martin's F-22 program. "We are dedicated to supporting our customer in return-to-flight activities. It takes a strong team to design, build, maintain and operate the Raptor. I'm proud to be part of such a team."

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