RICHMOND, Va. - Two members of Congress said Thursday that new information provided by the Air Force shows an oxygen-deficit problem on F-22 fighter jets is worse than previously disclosed.
Senator Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia, and Representative Adam Kinzinger, an Illinois Republican, said the Air Force reported about 26 incidents of apparent oxygen deprivation per 100,000 flight hours through May 31. That’s a rate at least 10 times higher than that involving any other Air Force aircraft, they said. Warner and Kinzinger said that as recently as this week, the Air Force maintained the rate of F-22 oxygen-related problems was “relatively low.’’
“I don’t want to say they’re hiding anything, and I don’t believe there’s a coverup or anything like that,’’ Kinzinger, a former Air Force pilot, said in a teleconference with journalists. But he said he would like to see the Air Force “just be very open with the American people’’ about the seriousness of the problem and plans for fixing it.
An Air Force spokesman did not immediately respond to a voice message seeking comment.
The Air Force grounded its F-22s for about four months last year because of the oxygen-deficit problem.
In May, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta ordered new flight restrictions on the F-22 and directed the Air Force to enlist the help of Navy and NASA experts to determine why some pilots continue to experience dizziness and other symptoms while flying.
Warner and Kinzinger said the new information came from the Air Force in response to questions they submitted last month after a CBS “60 Minutes’’ report featured two F-22 pilots from the Virginia Air National Guard who said that they and other pilots had experienced oxygen deprivation, disorientation, and other problems during some flights.