As the F-22 grounding enters its fourth month, pilots are losing proficiency on the fifth generation stealth fighter, as they are unable to meet the required number of flight hours each month.
The Air Force Times reports Air Force Vice Chief General Philip Breedlove as saying that pilots, despite ongoing simulator training, can’t maintain their currency in the F-22.
Raptor pilots are required to fly a certain number of sorties every month to stay current, but because the Raptors are grounded, those who were destined to begin flying the F-22 have been told to return to their home bases. Pilots just learning to fly the Raptor are limited to simulator flights, but there are only two F-22 simulator complexes, one at Langley Air Force Base and another Tyndall AFB. Even the elite pilots at the US Air Force Weapons School have been told to return to their home bases during the grounding.
If a pilot has not flown in seven months, they will have to start the training procedure over again. “Certainly, as we restart training we’ll have to regain those currencies just like in any other grounding of any other aircraft,” Breedlove said.
Each F-22 wing is developing a shortened requalification program to accommodate the grounded pilots, the Air Force Times story said.
“Once the designated number of sorties have been flown to achieve re-qualification, all pilots must fly their regular number of monthly sorties and commanders will then declare when their unit is sufficiently trained and ready for various taskings,” said Air Combat Command (ACC) spokesperson Captain Jennifer Ferrau.
Entire fleet of 165 F-22 Raptors, are grounded. 187 are on order, following a stand down from May 3 after reports of “oxygen system malfunctions” that could have caused pilot hypoxia (oxygen starvation).
There have been nine suspected cases of hypoxia during F-22 operations since mid-2008, and recently there have been 14 recorded OBOGS incidents up until now.