A few months ago, Air Force leaders noticed some very strange behavior from pilots in the cockpit of F-22 Raptor fighters. Some pilots sounded like they were drunk on the radio; others couldn't even remember how to use the radio during flights. Lab tests revealed not alcohol in the pilots' blood, but a host of toxic chemicals including oil fumes, anti-freeze and even propane. The Air Force grounded the entire stealthy F-22 fleet on May 3rd and launched an investigation. This week, the Air Force Times reports that they're still stumped, which is not the best news for the fantastically expensive and problem-prone F-22s.
The Air Force has definitely figured out that toxins are making their way into the cockpit, but they don't know how. The symptoms that the pilots were displaying resemble those of hypoxia, a condition due to a lack of oxygen. Captain Jeff Haney exhibited the similar symptoms just before he crashed and died in Alaska in November of 2010. Suspecting that the chemicals entered the cockpit through the jet's life support system, the Air Force is investigating the oxygen masks and pressurization systems, but they've yet to find the link.