DoD Finds Problems With F-22 Raptor Crash Investigation

On 16 November 2010, an F-22 flown by Capt. Jeff Haney lost contact with Air Traffic Control and was found to have crashed during a nighttime training flight near Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska. Capt. Haney was killed, and during the accident investigation all F-22's were restricted to flying below 25,000 before being grounded completely.

In December 2011, the Air Force's Accident Investigation Board released its report on the cause of the accident, assigning the blame primarily to Capt. Haney. A malfunction in the bleed-air system caused the On-Board Oxygen Generating System to shut down automatically, and while trying to manually activate the Emergency Oxygen System (while wearing bulky winter clothes) Capt. Haney inadvertently rolled and pitched the aircraft down. Brig. Gen. Browne, head of the AIB, stated, "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”.

On 11 February 2013, the Defense Department's Inspector General released its review of the AIB's report, and found that “the AIB Statement of Opinion regarding the cause of the mishap was not supported by the facts within the AIB report consistent with the clear and convincing standard of proof established” by the Air Force instructions governing crash reports.

Some of the problems found by the inspector general are:

  1. The DoD IG found that the three causes listed by Gen. Browne (channelized attention, breakdown of visual scan, and an unrecognized spatial disorientation) are distinct and the AIB's report fails to clearly explain how these three factors are linked and how they all simultaneously caused the accident.
  2. The AIB's report stated that the pilot's oxygen mask was up throughout the incident but this determination was not supported by facts present in the report. This inaccuracy affected several conclusions drawn by the report.
  3. Although non-contributory factors are mentioned in the AIB's report, the IG found that the AIB inadequately analyzed the human factors listed. Hypoxia, gravity-induced loss of consciousness, and sudden incapacitation are listed, but without supporting documentation, it is impossible to say what impact these factors did (or did not) have.
  4. Also missing from the report are details of activating the Emergency Oxygen System and the physiological response to a lack of oxygen.
  5. Finally, of the 109 reference in the AIB report's Statement of Facts, 60 were either incorrect or did not reference the information cited in the given paragraph.

The report concludes by recommending "Judge Advocate General of the Air Force reevaluate the AIB report and take appropriate action in light of the findings in this report regarding the AIB report Statement of Opinion and other deficiencies."

In a written response to DoD IG's conclusion the Air Force concedes that "aspects of the AIB report could have been more clearly written" but "the AIB President’s Statement of Opinion regarding the cause of the mishap was supported by clear and convincing evidence and he exhausted all available investigative leads." However, the Air Force does acknowledge that points 3, 4, and 5 are correct and "remedial actions would be taken to address [those points]".

In a response to the USAF's response, the DoD IG disagrees that the AIB "exhausted all investigative leads" and that AIB's report is "is sufficiently supported by clear and convincing evidence". The IG response also states that although the Air Force states remedial action will be taken, they fail to say what that would consist of, and they fail to address points 1 and 2, although they themselves say they could have been clearer.

Because of these problems, the IG requested a detailed description of the planned remedial action by February 28, 2013.

A summary of the DoD Inspector General's report can be found here. A link to the full report can also be found at that page.