Capt. Jeffrey Haney, who died in the November 2010 crash, joined the Air Force in 2003. (Air Force)
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Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz told a congressional panel Tuesday that the Air Force did not blame Capt. Jeff Haney for the fatal November 2010 F-22 crash in Alaska, despite the service's own report that said Haney was at fault.
"We did not assign blame to the pilot," Schwartz said during a House Appropriations Defense subcommittee hearing. "… This was a complex contingency that he did his best to manage and, in the end, we lost aircraft control."
The Air Force's accident investigation report on the crash, released in December, stated that Haney did not react quickly enough to activate the Raptor's emergency oxygen system or recover from a dive as he struggled to breathe.
"I find the cause of the mishap was the MP's [mishap pilot] failure to recognize and initiate a timely dive recovery due to channelized attention, breakdown of visual scan and unrecognized spatial disorientation," Brig. Gen. James Browne, the president of the accident investigation board, wrote in the report.
http://www.militarytimes.com/static/projects/pages/air-force-f22-report-121411.pdf">The report also stated that the F-22's On-board Oxygen Generating System, or OBOGS, which had been under investigation, did not malfunction, but the device did shut down because of a bleed-air problem.
"The accident board's purpose was to identify issues and certainly that part of the causal chain was interruption of bleed air flow and oxygen to the pilot. No question, no debating that occurred," Schwartz said. "In that process, regrettably, sadly, the pilot was unable to maintain control of the aircraft."
Schwartz's comments come amid a Pentagon Inspector General investigation into the Air Force accident investigation board's findings. The Pentagon's Inspector General http://www.airforcetimes.com/news/2012/02/air-force-f-22-raptor-pentagon-inspector-general-reviewing-020912w/">sent a letter to Air Force Secretary Michael Donley on Jan. 25 stating that the agency's assessment will "verify that AIB conclusions are supported by evidence of record consistent with standards of proof …"
Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., questioned Schwartz and Donley, saying that "there's been a suggestion … saying that the service is trying to protect its fifth-generation fighter and those involved in the program."
Following the crash, the Air Force http://www.airforcetimes.com/news/2011/09/ap-air-force-f-22-raptors-return-to-the-skies-092111/">grounded the Raptors for five months. Schwartz said the Air Force is working to identify the exact problem with the jets and has "been unable to identify a single engineering fault that is producing some of the phenomenon that we have seen with respect to hypoxia-like symptoms."
"The bottom line is this airplane is important to the national security and we've got the best minds we can find … we're working hard to both manage the risk and identify the exact cause," Schwartz said.
Late last month, http://www.airforcetimes.com/news/2012/02/air-force-f22-investigation-no-smoking-gun-022812w/">Lt. Gen. Herbert "Hawk" Carlisle told reporters that a Scientific Advisory Board study failed to find a conclusive cause for problems in the jet's OBOGS.
Raptors have flown more than 8,000 hours since the standdown ended in September and there have been additional incidents — including three pilots suffering symptoms resembling hypoxia in February, prompting 3rd Wing commander Col. Dirk Smith to order a one-day grounding on Feb 21. There have been nine cases of hypoxia-like symptoms since September, Air Combat Command spokesman Lt. Col. Tadd Sholtis said.