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USAF refuses to reopen F-22 accident investigation despite damning Inspector General’s report

The US Air Force will not reopen the Accident Investigation Board (AIB) that examined the 16 November, 2010, crash of a Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor despite the US Department of Defense (DOD) Inspector General's (IG) findings that the board's conclusions were flawed.

The crash took the life of Capt Jeff Haney, a pilot assigned to the 525th Fighter Squadron based at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.

"The convening authority, Gen Herbert Carlisle, PACAF [Pacific Air Forces] commander, directed that the AIB be reconvened (not reopened) in order to re-write the AIB report for clarity (to address the issues identified by DoD IG)," the US Air Force says in a written statement. "AFI [Air Force Instruction] 51-503 (paragraph 10.4) explains what it takes to re-open an investigation, specifically that there need to be new evidence. The convening authority is the only person who can re-open or reconvene an AIB."

 

 USAF

The DOD IG, however, recommends that the AIB report be re-evaluated because of the numerous flaws discovered by their investigation. "We concluded 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 AFI 51-503," writes Randolph Stone, the Pentagon's deputy inspector general in a memo attached to the IG report. "Our conclusion was supported by five individual findings, and we recommended that the AIB report be reevaluated in light of our findings."

Despite the IG report, the USAF remains steadfast that its AIB report simply needs to be rewritten for clarity despite the investigative lapses exposed by the inspector general's inquiry.

"Accident investigation boards are reconvened, among other reasons, to make clerical or administrative changes to an AIB report. AIBs can be reopened upon discovery of additional evidence that could affect the statement of opinion," the USAF says. "When an AIB is re-opened, it signifies an active or ongoing investigation. In this case, the AIB was reconvened to evaluate the information contained within the report by the [USAF] panel of experts and determine whether portions of the AIB could be better-written. The panel of experts report did not involve the discovery of additional evidence that could affect the AIB conclusion/statement of opinion."

Numerous sources voiced concerns over the quality and conclusions of the AIB report when it was initially released in December 2011. But even as the IG began its investigation, former USAF chief of staff Gen Norton Schwartz maintained that the inquiry was simply "routine".

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