F-22 crash prompts lawsuit by pilot's widow

Washington DC
Source:
This story is sourced from Flight International
Subscribe today »

The wife of deceased US Air Force F-22 Raptor pilot Captain Jeff "Bong" Haney is suing contractors Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Pratt and Whitney and Honeywell in connection with the 16 November 2010 crash that took his life.

The complaint was filed on 5 March 2012 in a court in Cook County, Illinois, by Michael Demetrio, a lawyer representing Anna Haney. The lawsuit seeks compensation, which would be chosen by the court, for Haney and her two daughters Ava and Stella Rose under the Wrongful Death Act.

Prime contractor Lockheed is responsible for the overall production of the Raptor, but Boeing as a major sub-contractor integrated the aircraft's life-support system. Honeywell builds the on-board oxygen generating system (OBOGS) and environmental control systems (ECS). Meanwhile Pratt and Whitney makes the F119 engine and associated bleed-air system-which supplies the entire life-support apparatus with oxygen.

The lawsuit alleges that the contractors designed and built the F-22 Raptor with defective life-support systems including the OBOGS, ECS and bleed air system. The suit also alleges that system was built without adequate backup safety measures or proper sensors to warn the pilot if there is a problem.

Moreover, the plaintiff alleges that the oxygen supplied to the operator is often contaminated with harmful chemicals via the aircraft OBOGS, ECS and engine bleed air system. Sometimes the system doesn't supply enough oxygen when needed, nor does it have an automatic backup in case of a failure, the lawsuit says.

Particularly, the suit notes that the manually operated backup oxygen bottle is placed in a difficult to reach spot behind the pilot and that the bleed air system is a single point of failure.

The Haney's lawsuit alleges that the contractors knowingly supplied the air force with a defective aircraft-intentionally jeopardizing the lives of aircrew.

In a statement, Lockheed expressed sympathy for Haney's family, but said it didn't agree with the allegations.

"The loss of the pilot and aircraft in November 2010 was a tragic event and we sympathize with the family for their loss," Lockheed says. "We are aware that a complaint that makes a variety of claims associated with the accident has been filed with the court in Cook County. We do not agree with those allegations and we will respond to them through the appropriate legal process."

Boeing officials say they cannot comment on pending litigation. Pratt and Whitney say that it has not yet received any notice of pending legal actions and that it is "inappropriate" to comment until it receives notification.

Honeywell, meanwhile, says its product is not responsible.

"The US Air Force conducted a thorough aircraft accident investigation regarding the F-22A crash near Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska in accordance with standard flight safety procedures," Honeywell says. "The report concluded that Honeywell's on-board oxygen generation system was not the cause of the November 2010 F-22 crash."

Last year, a USAF accident investigation board held Haney responsible for the crash because he failed to activate the emergency oxygen system when his F-22's oxygen system was automatically shutdown due a still-unexplained malfunction of the jets bleed air system.

Accident board president Brig Gen James Browne states in that report: "I find the cause of the mishap was the [mishap pilot's] failure to recognise and initiate a timely dive recovery due to channelised attention, breakdown of visual scan and unrecognised spatial disorientation."

Later on 6 March, USAF chief of staff General Norton Schwartz seemed to backtrack.

"We did not assign blame to the pilot," Schwartz told the US Congress on 6 March. He acknowledged that the aircraft's bleed air intakes - from which the jet's oxygen is derived - had shut down, depriving Haney of oxygen, and that this was a contributing factor.

However, Congressman Jim Moran countered: "The accident board blamed him."

The sequence that led to Haney's crash began when his F-22 experienced a still-unexplained oxygen leak in the engine bay. As a precaution, a fire suppression system automatically closed the bleed air valves that feed compressed air to the OBOGS.

As a result, Haney was forced to activate the emergency oxygen supply. However, he struggled to reach the pull-up ring while unable to breathe. At the same time, he may have inadvertently put the aircraft into a steep dive.

The onboard data recorder showed that Haney attempted a violent pull-up manoeuvre less than 3sec before impact, but it was already too late and the F-22 crashed in a remote Alaska valley.

[Click here to read the full text of the lawsuit.]