By DANA LIEBELSON
Nine people involved with the F-22, most of them pilots, have told Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) and Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) about problems with the aircraft, the Members of Congress told reporters on Tuesday after a briefing with the Air Force.
“We have grave concerns and we have a lot of questions that still needs answers” Rep. Kinzinger said. “But we are confident the Air Force will work with us to get those questions answered.”
The lawmakers, who recently sent a letter to the Air Force requesting further investigation into the F-22, emphasized the importance of ensuring the safety of the F-22 pilots and flight sergeants who choose to come forward, particularly for pilot Josh Wilson who still has a letter of reprimand from the Air Force hanging over his head.
On Tuesday, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta instituted new flight restrictions on the F-22, including limiting the distance pilots can fly the F-22, and hastening the installation of backup oxygen systems. These actions are a start, but they don’t go far enough. We believe that the F-22 fleet be grounded until the oxygen problems are fully resolved.
Sen. Warner said that “the more I dig, the more I’m uncertain we’ve found the root cause" [of the oxygen problem].
When POGO asked Sen. Warner at the press conference whether he thinks the fleet should be grounded, he said: “Secretary Panetta has taken the appropriate first step by limiting the F-22’s flight path. But I want to see more data, I want to see surveys and I want to continue to hear from pilots.”
Dana Lielbelson is POGO's Beth Daley Impact Fellow.