F-22 Ground Crew Suffered Hypoxia-Like Symptoms

Fresh on the heels of yesterday’s announcement by the Air Force that it thinks the hypoxia-like symptoms suffered by F-22 Raptor pilots may be caused by the jets high-altitude performance, reports are emerging that ground crew are also suffering from similar ailments when they stand near the jet while it’s engines are running. Interesting.

At least five ground maintainers complained of illness between September and December, Air Combat Command spokesman Lt. Col. Tadd Sholtis said in an Air Force Times article that hit the newsstands Monday. The maintainers grew sick after breathing in ambient air during ground engine runs, a congressional aide told Air Force Times.

I imagine that the service is looking at the rates of sickness for ground crew of other jets to make sure that the Raptor maintainers are actually suffering from something unique to the stealth jet. If they are, it seems to indicate that the problem is indeed related to contaminates emanating from the plane rather than a lack of oxygen getting to the pilots during flight. Just yesterday, one of the Air Force’s top acquisitions officials, Lt. Gen. Janet Wolfenbarger told Senators that the service suspects that the F-22’s  On-Board Oxygen Generating Systems (OBOGS) are either feeding the pilots contaminated air or aren’t giving them enough air to breath. She added that the problem may be related to the extreme altitudes that Raptors routinely execute high-G maneuvers in. Needless to say, this latest news puts an interesting twist on that claim.

Apparently, F-22 ground crew have been issued canisters designed to take air samples whenever they feel the onset of hypoxia.



83 Comments on "F-22 Ground Crew Suffered Hypoxia-Like Symptoms"

  1. Wow. This just flies in the face of what the AF said yesterday which was basically that "Pilots are sick because the plane is just so badass".

  2. What the heck? Did they forget to open the hangar doors?

  3. Weird, almost unheard of…

  4. I knew it. Obviously it's the result of the Warpness Cells inistiating a cascading poleron field around the plane. ;P

  5. I'm guessing that since this has not happened until recently, this could be a bogus claim for benefits.

  6. This story just keeps getting weirder and weirder. Now the ground crew have breathing problems? The altitude and maneuverability explanation actually seemed like it was kind of making sense, but not anymore. (By the way, determining whether that explanation is valid seems simple enough, just fly the planes strait and level at low altitude and check if the pilots experience the same problems. If they do, then that theory is out the window; if not then further testing may be required.) Could it be something to do with the fuel the engines are burning? I kind of doubt it, but I'm running out of explanations for the problem.

    By the way, how 'bout in addition to offering the ground crew and pilots canisters [to use when they experience hypoxia] also giving them emergency oxygen bottles so that they don't DIE or CRASH? At least as a temporary measure – it can't be THAT hard to do?

    Finally, anybody find it odd that a new explanation was advanced shortly after the 2 pilots were interviewed on 60 Minutes? I mean that just HAS to be a coincidence, right?

  7. Might this be some sort of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning? That would be a common explanation for Hypoxia in open atmosphere.

  8. Vibrational, Sounds compression wave effects.Nausea
    , lighheadedness. Low B.P. Its not totally unheard of ??? I dont think I've ever heard a case of this to the point of unconciousness ?

  9. Or it can be something in stelth coat.

  10. "a congressional aide told Air Force Times."

    Congressional aids have been known to do things for political purposes.
    And the Air Force Times is owned by Gannett Press which like any other media outlet needs stories to get readership.

    Just sayin'

  11. Now that personnel being in proximity to the plane have breathing problems I wonder what the plant workers who built the aircraft have to say? Silence so far from the builders.

    One theory on the secrecy of places like Area 51 is that the real reason they are so secret isn't ET tech or aliens it is that is is such a environmental disaster that they want to keep quiet. Maybe we have an answer finally, the off-gassing of the plane's coatings is the main contributing factor behind the low oxygen symptoms, coatings that may have been developed at secret sites that are now storing the old unseccessful formulas and base chemicals in sites that wouldn't pass muster with the EPA.

  12. Another glaring possibility is that we're looking at two different issues: one that effects pilots flying in the extreme margins and another that effects ground crew. An earlier comment asked if they forgot to open the hangar doors, maybe as a joke, but seriously, maybe they aren't opening the hanger doors. The story says "At least five ground maintainers complained of illness between September and December." If these ground crew are in Anchorage then its already below freezing in September.

  13. Of course, these symptoms can easily by psychosomatic as well. Anxiety and shallow breathing can quickly cause similar symptoms. This happens all the time once word gets around that people might be at risk for something. I could go to any random office building and tell people there might be a carbon monoxide problem or toxic mold problem or gas leak… and I can guarantee some people will quickly develop symptoms of light-headedness, nausea, headaches, etc just from their own anxiety. Anxiety and fear of the unknown are powerful forces.

  14. There hints of mass hysteria here…

  15. "If you're suffering from hypoxia, perform this complicated task right before you pass out so we can measure the contaminants in the air." Hmm, seem like the same thing they told that pilot that landed in the smoking hole in Alaska.

  16. Awesome undiscovered secret weapon of the F22. Now they can just flyby enemies and knock them unconscious! Just need a little refinement so it isn't focussing on our guys and up the strength.

    ok I dunno but it's a cool idea.

  17. I have now lost faith in the F-22. We should not deploy these fighters until we take them completely apart and dissect them till we find the problem. If we send these over seas now we are risking highly classified technology and materials needlessly over foreign soil. That is unacceptable.

  18. Reading articles about the F22 is giving me hypoxia-like symptoms.

  19. Fkn Honey Badger will fly the F22 and service it. Honey Badger don't give a sh*t.

  20. I bet some of the RAM coating material making its way through the obogs filtration and our pilots are breathing the crap in when the obogs is switched on since the plane and pilot receive their air through same coated air inlets.

  21. I.E. sucks!
    I bet some of the RAM coating material making its way through the obogs filtration and our pilots are breathing the crap in when the obogs is switched on since the plane and pilot receive their air through same coated air inlets.

    Read more: http://live-defensetech.sites.thewpvalet.com/2012/05/09/f-22-ground-cre

  22. F22 is so high performance that even being near it causes people to get breathless. Like The Beatles and teenage girls.

  23. Yup, acording to AFtimes.com the ground crews who experianced sickness where inside the cockpit at the time. Situation normal, same situation, same part thats broken/not working/not sure whats up. Same story that can go back to the high performance point of view that maybe something with the aircraft performance is causing this. Carry on

  24. The pilots aren't likely to be experiencing psychosomatic symptoms since they would have been screened for such tendencies. But the ground crew probably aren't much more resistant to anxiety and psychosomatic symptoms than an average healthy person.

    It's still possible with the pilots, of course, just less likely.

  25. Take 2 or 3 F-22's out to Edwards and tear them down to the screws. Put a team together & examine every single hose, screw, clamp, wire, etc. Lab tests on the chemical make up of all materials. The engines put on a test bed & run to measure exhaust output. Treat this just like the Shuttle shuttle investigation. Pull in folks from NASA, Boeing & Northrop with a independent view. Examine the non plane factors. Fuel, uniforms, equipement, cleaning materials, de-icers, etc.

  26. Time to fix the oxygen system on the plane get over it brass.

  27. As I recall, both the B-2 and F-22 programs had complaints of workers forming structural parts having breathing problems. In both instances the company executives these people worked for at Boeing and Lockheed, respetively, alleged the cause to be "mass hysteria", yet in both cases the cure had nothing to do with psychotropic medications, but was instead increased ventilation in the work areas where the composite structural parts were being formed. It seems likely that as these planes sit, they continue to outgass small amounts of the same substances that caused problems in the manufacturing facilities. Perhaps the first course of action for the Air Force should be the same, increasing ventilation in the hangars and providing fans to blow air across outside work areas. It wouldn't cost a lot and might fix the problem.

  28. Could it be that the engines are just that big and they put off that much CO2? If it was cold and they were doing the runup under an open shelter wouldn't the gas stick around since it's denser than air, especially if there was no wind?

  29. Just hang one of those little Christmas tree air fresheners. You'll be fine.

  30. Could a foreign agent possibly sabotaged the F-22 somehow? Just say'n…lots of Chinese hacking these days…

  31. I’ll suggest trichothecene mycotoxin poisoning, as no one else seems to have come up with that yet.

    Trace contaminants inhaled by pilots could cause symptoms of headaches, confusion, disorientation, dizziness, heart palpitations and acute dyspnea within a short flight of an hour or two. Could also cause the persistent ‘Raptor cough’ that’s been reported. Checkin O2 and CO2 levels, or looking for external contamination through leaks wouldn’t turn it up, and there’s no military bio-warfare field test for it – lab tests would be required. Fungi could produce the toxins, living in moisture condensing within the air system due to the temperature changes experienced operating in Alaska. That’s my stab in the dark.

  32. Men In Black | May 9, 2012 at 10:40 pm | Reply

    Is it possible they are mixing in an additive to reduce the radar signature of the exhaust? The SR-71 added cesium to the fuel for this purpose. In the case of the F-22, it may not be cesium, but what if there’s some other additive that’s being mixed into the fuel that could be causing these problems. Would definitely explain the how maintainers are experiencing similar problems when the aircraft is on the ground.

    Just a thought.

  33. i agree compleatly with the post above. their has to be a logical explanation for this problem.

  34. commented this on the last article but, any chance the biochemical products in the radar-reflecting paint are getting into the air mixture and messing with hemoglobin saturation?

  35. Really? "…ground crew are also suffering from similar ailments when they stand near the jet while it’s engines are running."?

    This post is absurd and not worth further reading, much less comment.

  36. The pilots and crew are probably just sick from having to listen to Lockheed PR on one hand and having to work on their fail jets on the other.

    I know Lockheed makes many Americans nauseous.

  37. I wonder why this never happens on the B-2, F-35 and F-117.

  38. Probably NASA robots can handle the pressure of flying it.

  39. Similar to one of the above posts, the engines might be so powerful that they create lower than normal pressures around the intakes which could cause the hypoxia.

  40. The Obama Administration is using this as a method of cutting out America's military advantage. Ya cannot operate an advanced Fighter with third world ambitions.

  41. Gee, what do you expect when you breathe jet exhaust!

  42. theres got to be way to figure whats wrong is it lack of oxygen at high g forces

  43. Has to be the fuel then… Wasn't the F-22 running on some sort of biofuel? I remember seeing some sort of article that they changed the gas and tested it on the F-18 first, then on the F-22. This is suddenly starting to make sense.

  44. Infidel4LIFE | May 10, 2012 at 11:36 am | Reply

    On 60 Minutes it sounded like the pilots were saying they were breathing in toxins. They said the AF was going to change the filters. Wat is going on? The plane is all that and more, just as they said it was. Fix this please.

  45. As a former crew cheif on the Army's Apache and having been around other types of aircraft it could be exhaust fumes. It could be vapors left at or near ground level after refueling and so on. I also have a degree in aircraft maintenance and also know a few fomer F-117A ground crew members. If it was RAM coating material or the RAM adhesive and assuming its the same stuff because the Lockheed builds both planes, then F-117A pilots and ground crews would have had similar symptoms.

    It is interesting. However in my experience sometimes these mysteries have simple solutions.

  46. Frontal Lobe | May 10, 2012 at 1:02 pm | Reply

    I know what it is. Reply here with contact information and I will get back to you.

  47. Has anybody checked the fuel tanks? Sounds like in their quest for higher performance they revived Zip Fuel. You know that great stuff from the 60's that is full of Boron and makes exteremly toxic exhaust. Even some new version might explain alot of problems.

  48. There could be more than 1 problem other than engine fumes…radiation?..from avionics equipment or aircraft parts….do any of you experts know?

  49. lot of non-military pilots without any stinking clue posting here – amazing… if you don't know what you are talking about stop opining and removing all doubt as to your inability to engage brain….

  50. Ain'tClaimingThisOne | May 11, 2012 at 9:49 am | Reply

    F-22 is so badass even Chuck Norris gets hypoxia-like symptoms.

  51. What if the g-suit isn't reacting fast enough due to the maneuverability of the Raptor? Is it the same g-suit that's been used for years? If it doesn't react fast enough, then the pilot could lose blood to the brain, causing black out, right?

  52. There is no excuse for this problem getting so far out of hand. Get some idiot from the carnival , gather up all your ECS equipment prototypes and place them into the buckets of the Octopus ride. The Octopus ride can better simulate the dynamic multi-vectored G-forces of the F-22 much better than the centrifuge ride. Place a couple pilots in each bucket as well. ONLY three people will oversee these experiments: (1) the carnival ride operator who will collect the ride fares and run the Octopus (2) a Flight Surgeon interviewing the test subjects and monitoring physiological data (3) an ECS engineer reviewing the performance of the various LOX/ bleed air setups. You could test a dozen or so ECS systems and several dozen pilots simultaneously. The cost of one ride: maybe $1 or any red-colored ticket. Don't even bother paying the pilots because it will be a "casual carnival ride Friday". It will take about a day to get your answers. Am I trying to be funny or is this how they would have done it before we became so "high tech"?

  53. Some background. Monitoring blood O2 levels is easy. We have all had it done at the docs office. I am assuming that the pilots have already or could easily be continually monitored for blood O2 levels. Either they are adequate or not. Easy to discover. Next issue is whether there is enough blood to the brain. This issue is addressed by their G training and pressure suit. Either it works or it doesn't. I assume that the simulator can produce the same G levels that the F22 can. VOCs or "volatile organic compounds" are very easy to detech with a variety of inexpensive meters on the commercial market. Either they are VOCs in the air or not. Contaminants in the blood such as carbon monoxide are also easy to detect. DO pilots on bottled, tested O2 still have the issues? Virtually every possible cause is simple to test for yet they still can't figure it out. I say: What the hell?

  54. Checking out the pilots is not a problems. They are in a sealed environment. Stick a filter on their breathing apparatus and see what's up. As far as the Airmen on the ground…Give a couple of them similar badges to those worn by those in hazmat or hospital environments. Come on now. Why is the Military making this so damn hard? Maybe they're looking to float another extra in a piece of equipment they are producing. The Ruskies have a set of plans and just build and tweek. Our people Build Tweek add on tweek rebuild add on tweek add on rebuild. Get the picture. The aircrat is nothing like it's original intent.

  55. sounds like they need a FLUX CAPACITOR

  56. I doubt the claim is bogus if the plane is not working right there is a good chance that the setup of the intakes and other exhaust sources could be fouling the new msog's. They should try a few runs with the plane modified with LOX bottles. Perhaps give crews some oxygen masks and determine if the jets that have possibly caused illness still cause issues… Lets face it if the jet is not running 100% and the atmosphere is stagnant any jet can foul the air around it quite quickly. particularly if they are in a HAS during an exercise with doors open or closed.

  57. We need more air

  58. Has anybody examined the likelihood of outgassing of certain chemical compounds in adhesives, seals and other new materials used on the aircraft? High altitude (low pressure) tends to allow materials to give off molecules (known as outgassing). Heat will do the same thing in many cases. If the engines are producing heat after extensive runups, it could cause the same level of degradation as outgassing at high altitufde. Consider placing key materials into vacuum chambers and recording what levels of outgassin occur, then examine if there is any avenue for this material to intrude into the OBOGS or related engine bleed air systems. Also check history. What contamination scenarios have been experienced on other aircraft in the past, and what was their cause/resolution? It may help provide clues, if not answers.

  59. Anybody bother to check the landing gear nitrogen generator? An unplanned leak or engineered-in venting would cause that.

    Let's not forget the multiple deaths which occurred on the launch pad at Kennedy when nitrogen was injected into the shuttle engine cones, to vent-off any noxious gases, after conducting a 'ground engine run'.

    The first scientist went in to check for damage and collapsed. The 2nd saw him collapse and ran-in to rescue him – only to collapse too, Then the 3rd 'rocket scientist' ran-in to rescue the other 2 and (you got it) collapsed. Only after 3 men died of 'oxygen deprivation' a laborer donned a Scott Airpak, crawled-in and dragged the 3 bodies out.

    Sorta justifies the derogatory label 'Rocket Scientist' Cheech called his cousin (Paul Rodriguez) in the film 'Born in East LA' doesn't it? Sometimes, when the brains are stumped, call-in a janitor.

    (What the hell IS a 'ground engine run' anyway – running a turbine engine in a car on the Bonneville Salt Flats? Does Lt Col Sholtis have a BS in engineering or a BA in philosophy?)

  60. I really don’t like any of the comments that ‘passingby’ left on here. This individual seems to be a non flightline member of our AF. I have been in aviation for over 14 years as a crew chief on 15’s, an FE on 130’s, and as a QA Inspector. In those areas of my experience, you have no choice but to be in close proximity of the A/C while it is running during phases of launch/recovery, EOR, “hot pits”, ICT’s, “combat onload/offload”, etc. I’m sure that by the ways that ‘passingby’ was arguibg semantics, the only time they have been near an A/C in “close proximity” is at a static display at the base airshow or the A/C on the pedistals around base. This is a real issue and needs to be addressed thoroughly…whether it is a false claim for benefits or a true condition. Obviously ‘passingby’ has never taken a JP-8 bath or has never taken a JOAP/SOAP and been exposed to any type of sorts near an A/C. Even “proper use” of PPE doesn’t prevent certain things from happening on the flightline.

  61. Eagle Keeper | May 15, 2012 at 10:47 pm | Reply

    Take a couple of F-22's to Eglin AFB and do some additional climatic control testing. The climate may have something to do with it. Cold comes to mind in Alaska.
    It's worth trying something instead of becoming a hat rack !!! F-15 Eagle keeper

  62. Either the young (impressionable) ground maintenance people have mentally bought-into a hypoxia story on the F-22s, or the materials are actually out-gassing significantly enough to affect them?

    New materials, and a high priority to escape radar signature. We have a collision here.

  63. joseph engbino | May 15, 2012 at 11:18 pm | Reply

    maybe look at a new type of "operator" or deploying technique/procedure/restriction(s) in the meantime, since nobody seems to know whats going on… Sure looks like we've been kinda lucky so far…

  64. Interesting topic. Advanced composites use resin systems which can be toxic at elevated temps. If the engines heat were to cause gassing out of these toxins it may be possible they are being brought back into the act O2 system through bypass air. Just another of the thousand possibilities, but one that may warrant looking into. The only thing that stands out as a no to me would be the fact that there would typically be some sort of smell involved which I have not heard of yet.

  65. David Lee Riley | May 15, 2012 at 11:49 pm | Reply

    The airframe is your answer, while stationary on the ground or in a null airflow configuration aloft, The Engines hyper design consumes almost 100% of the oxygen immediatly adjacent to the aircraft.

  66. As a former crew chief of the F16 lawn dart. If i remember correctly most aircraft use bleed air from the engine for environmental temp control of the cockpit and avionic/flight control systems. Im wondering about the fuels that are being used in the F-22. From what i can remember about my 2 seater F16. It seemed to have made a particular odor when the formula of JP had changed. And we also had grounded our jets because of a similar problem. Oh did i mention my jet was the " SHINNY WING JET" my pilot used to make me take second seat. Wow what a ride that was. Sure do miss it.

  67. Difficult to buy in to the theory that the same problem is effecting ground crew standing near and pilots in flight. F22 is new plane; wonder how many of the groundcrew reporting symptoms are on their first aircraft assignment? Takes a little while to become "climatized" to exhaust fumes. Was in a study long time ago on CO. Enviromental Services investigator became ill and sought medical attention after observing us work for three hours. We had become "used to" CO levels 200 – 300 ppm. He hadn't.

  68. Several here have pointed out simple monitoring techniques for some exposures. Keep in mind many "simple" techniques have very limited sensitivity and broad range of confidence; A 0 – 25 ppm "badge" may have a +/- 50% accuracy. And if you are looking for something truly toxic, parts per BILLION is more likely exposure limitation. Fuel additives that themselves are toxic or decompose into toxic substances should be organic compounds or inorganic elements which could be identified through biological samples from exposed personnel. But the medical personnel would have to know what they are looking for in the samples.
    Last concern I have is the comment about heat causing additional decomposition of structural or RAM aircraft components. I admit limited knowledge of the composite process or the RAM, but I would still propose a concern that heat from normal operation should not be causing physical changes to these materials. Would this continued "offgassing" not result in changes, and possible weakness, in these components?

  69. I work on composite aircraft structures everyday. Yes they would degrade the strength over time which is a scary thought in its own.

  70. just wondering… I thought that the function of bleed air from the compressor section was to create cabin pressure. Doesn't the pilot breathe air/oxygen from the liquid oxygen tanks? Also – I'm probably out of line here, but grasping at straws, don't the SR71 guys wear pressure suits for a reason. Something to do with maintaining an outside pressure against the body to prevent an occurring symptom that divers experience when coming up too fast. Not the bends, but close to it. Not sure what altitude they operate and what flight suits they wear…..

  71. ozone has a unique odor that would not go unnoticed. Also ozone is very corrosive which will accelerate deterioration of the air frame and associated parts.

  72. An epidemiologist would probably figure this out pronto.

  73. Alright, that does it!!! Not only does the Air Force need to call in NASA, etc, they need to call in AFOSI and the FBI and interview every person that touched those F-22s in production looking for an extremely capable saboteur. I mean, who would think of anyone involved in the oxygen generation system development and installation as being suspect. But, dadgum!!! What a way to hamstring the most effective and awesome airborne weapons system in over half a century by affecting the ability of it's operators to BREATHE!!!

  74. Obama is probably blaming Bush

  75. traindodger | May 17, 2012 at 3:05 am | Reply

    It sounds to me like some kind of coating compound somewhere on the bird is either delaminating or releasing some sort of outgassing when under exposure to heat or high-pressure air, and the contaminants are getting sucked into the OBOGS inlet (as well as being present in the exhaust).

  76. Steve Bastian | May 17, 2012 at 3:24 am | Reply

    I wonder if it could be related to a high electro-magnetic field (EMF) that is generated by the aircraft or its on board equipment? A high EMF could give the same symptoms to someone who is sensitive to to it.

  77. William Dehler | May 17, 2012 at 11:05 am | Reply

    This is why we need R2D2 robots to fly these planes

  78. Charles Holmes | May 17, 2012 at 3:20 pm | Reply

    Alien technology. Not for the faint of lung.

  79. Could be improper g-techniques to. negative gs, transverse gs. This plane has all types of directional forces.

  80. the inspector | May 17, 2012 at 11:29 pm | Reply

    The air force does disasemble every aircraft it receives from its manufacturer, before it goes into service. There are factory representatives available at all times to make sure that thay understand the tec manuals and asist in all reinstallations, when a problem as this has grounded a fleet of aircraft, they all are torn down to the bones.When an intermittent problem is involved, it can be quit hard to detect. Now after these chashes and near crashes, I recall that there is no warning light for the OBOGS. I asure you there is nothing on, in, or around that aircraft, other than the OBOGS that could induce hypoxia like systoms. as for out side of an aircraft, I've been awashed with exhaust gas many time with no ill effect, other than smelling like JP5 for the rest of the day. As for any one who worked on this aircraft ever commenting on the aircraft, you must remember that it was and still is a top secret aircraft, so noone would risk their job for your educative enjoyment.

  81. How is it that an oxygen sucking engine as on the F-22 is able to separate oxygen for the pilot? I seems to me once the engine uses all the air given to it there is little on no oxygen for the pilot. I think they need to go to a separate O2 system that uses liquid O2
    for the pilot and not depend on the jet engine to spare O2 for the pilot.

  82. sell them to iran get your money back re duce the price 2for one capt. john

  83. I was a crew cheif for the Army on the AH-64A. We would stand in the APU exhaust to keep warm in the winter months and if you weren't careful or if the rotors weren't turning you could get a bit light headed.. Soo, September through January. Cold months or if you are at a place like Edwards months with inversions. Could it be that there is a simpler cause such as the APU exhaust. Also what is the sex of those involved. There are alot of variables to explore before grounding the best fight plane ever constructed. btw, if its the RAM adhesive then we would have seen this earlier in the B-2 and the F-117 fleet. The company that makes the RAM adhesive tested for off gassing.

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