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Toxic Raptors Still Grounded, Pilots Losing Currency

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An investigation that grounded the fleet of F-22 Raptors back in May "has since expanded to include all aspects of the aircraft," according to the Air Force Times, leaving deliveries on hold and pilots hoping for simulator time. There are less than 160 Raptors deployed (accounting for roughly $65 billion) and two F-22 simulators -- one at Langley and another at Tyndall Air Force Base. The actual jets have been grounded because they appear to be poisoning their pilots. Tests have found multiple toxins in the blood of Raptor pilots affected by symptoms similar to hypoxia while flying the jets. And the Air Force hasn't been able to source the problem, leading to a cascade of complications.

The blood tests turned up chemicals from oil fumes, burned antifreeze and propane, according to the Air Force Times. "There is a lot of nasty stuff getting pumped into the pilots' bloodstream through what they're breathing from that OBOGS [On-Board Oxygen Generation System]. That's fact," one former F-22 pilot said. "How bad it is, what type it is, exactly how much of it, how long -- all these things have not been answered." Deliveries have been effectively halted because government test pilots can't fly the jets under the grounding order. Classes of incoming Raptor pilots have had their training altered and active pilots from as far away as Alaska and Hawaii have been seeking sim-time at either of two simulators on the east coast. According to Stars and Stripes, pilots must undergo complete re-qualification if they haven't flown in 210 days. The military is working to develop shorter re-qualification training and instructor pilots will be the first ones through the program when the jets come back online. What was first thought to be an oxygen-delivery problem leading to hypoxia -- and the possible cause of a fatal crash last November -- is apparently more complicated.

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