Defense Secretary Panetta Orders Halt to Long-Range F-22 Missions in Alaska
F-22 Raptor jet aircraft fly over the Pacific Ocean. Photo by Master Sgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald, Photo Credit: U.S. Air Force
ANCHORAGE - Alaska's most advanced fighter has had its wings clipped by the Defense Department.
Secretary Leon Panetta today announced the F-22 Raptors will only be flown within a safe distance from landing strips.
The move comes after 12 pilots, since April of 2008, have reported oxygen deprivation from an unknown problem with the plane's oxygen system.
The oxygen problem is being blamed for a November 2010 crash near the Denali Highway that killed Anchorage based pilot Captain Jeff Haney.
The flight restrictions mean none of the planes can do long-range interception and airspace patrols over Alaska.
The Air Force says those missions will be done by "other" aircraft, but KTVA has been unable to confirm which ones.
Panetta also says all F-22's will be fitted with a back-up oxygen system until the problem can be found and fixed.
No word yet when the flight restrictions will be lifted.
The F-22 is the Air Force's most costly and advanced fighter.
The last plane to be manufactured for the Air Force was delivered to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson earlier this month.
“All F-22 flights will remain in the proximity of potential landing locations to enable quick recovery and landing should a pilot encounter unanticipated physiological conditions during flight. That means long-duration airspace control flights in Alaska will be performed by other aircraft,” said George Little, Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense.