Defense contractors have settled a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the widow of an F-22 pilot who contended that flaws in the aircraft contributed to the crash that killed her husband in 2010. Terms of the settlement are confidential and have not been disclosed. Anna Haney sued Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Honeywell International and Pratt and Whitney after her husband’s death, alleging that the stealth fighter was “unreasonably defective.” It was alleged further that the fighter’s oxygen-supply system did not supply enough air to pilot Jeff Haney during a Nov. 16, 2010, training flight that ended in a fiery crash in remote Alaska.
The settlement came two weeks after Air Force investigators announced a breakthrough of sorts in determining the cause of oxygen-supply problems in the cockpit going back to last year. This has been an issue that proved embarrassing to the service, which touts the Raptor as its top-of-the-line fighter.
The entire Raptor fleet was grounded for four months last year while experts looked at why a small number of F-22 pilots complained of dizziness or light-headed feelings, which are symptoms of oxygen deprivation. The aircraft was returned to flight in September even though the Air Force had not determined the problem’s root cause. In May, the Raptor made national headlines when two Virginia Air National Guard pilots from Langley went public with their concerns, telling CBS’ “60 Minutes” they were not comfortable flying the aircraft. That sparked a bi-partisan investigation by Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia and Republican House member Adam Kinzinger of Illinois.
Less than two weeks after the “60 Minutes” episode, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta ordered additional safety measures, including a stepped-up schedule for installing an automated backup oxygen system on the Raptor. Lockheed has received a $19 million contract to begin this work. The breakthrough announcement came Aug. 1 when the Air Force said the aircraft’s on-board oxygen-generating system wasn’t the source of the problem, nor were toxins leaking into the air supply, which had been another theory. Rather, they said the problem stemmed from a pressurized vest that inflated at the wrong time and restricted pilots’ breathing, along with a connection valve that had been designed with older F-15s and F-16s in mind, not the higher-performing F-22. John Gagliano, a lawyer with the Wolk law firm in Philadelphia, represented the Plaintiff and he did a very good job in a most interesting case.
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