An Air Force witness at a Senate Armed Services Committee
hearing Tuesday said there would be no retaliation against the pilots who blew
the whistle on continuing hypoxia issues with the F22 in a 60 Minutes interview Sunday (May 6).
That came in response to a question from Republican Senator
Scott Brown of Massachusetts. Lieutenant General Janet Wolfenbarger told the
committee that the F22 was safe to fly, but that it was still trying to get to
the root cause of the problems that more than two dozen pilots had experienced,
which included nausea and disorientation, symptoms the 60 Minutes whistle-blowers said had prompted them to decline to fly
the plane and to go on the air without permission to discuss the problem.
Gen. Wolfenbarger said it was her understanding that a
directive had been issued making clear the protected whistle-blower status of
the pilots who have complained.
She conceded that there had been 14 incidents before a
four-month moratorium on flying the planes, then 11 incidents after the plane
was returned to service. But she also pointed out that was 0.1% of total
flights. She also said the Air Force had taken 17 steps to try to mitigate
risks to its pilots.
The line of F22 questioning was prompted by the 60 Minutes piece, which featured two
pilots suggesting they were being used as guinea pigs to test the Air Force
fixes, which they boiled down to introducing a charcoal filter and an
oxygen sensor. The Air Force has narrowed the threat to either not enough
oxygen or a foreign contaminant, and Gen. Wolfenbarger suggested they were
focusing on the former, given the height at which the plane flies and the G's pulled
Broadcasting & Cable Newsletter
The smarter way to stay on top of broadcasting and cable industry. Sign up below
Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.