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JBER pauses F-22 flights over oxygen supply concern

BILL ROTH / Daily News archive 2011

Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson has temporarily stopped flying its 40 F-22 fighter jets after an incident involving a Virginia-based F-22, a JBER spokesman said Saturday.

Air Force officials said an F-22 Raptor pilot at the 1st Fighter Wing at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia appeared to have had an oxygen-related problem while in flight, the Air Force Times reported.

The commander of the 1st Fighter Wing in Virginia issued an order for a temporary stand-down of its stealth jets. The order applied just to Langley.

But JBER is "pausing" flights too as a safety precaution, said JBER public affairs director Maj. Joseph Coslett. The Alaska-based F-22s quit flying Thursday, he said.

Alaska has had no recent incidents with the Raptors, Coslett said.

The temporary halt to flying Alaska-based Raptors is a locally based decision, not like the four-month grounding of F-22 jets around the country that began in May, Coslett said.

"In a pause, they'll take a look at things, then will be allowed to fly," he said. It's not clear when the planes will begin flying out of JBER again.

The national grounding in May was imposed because of at least 12 cases over three years in which pilots reported they didn't get enough oxygen.

The Air Force never figured out the cause of the oxygen deficiency but decided to return the F-22s to flight as of Sept. 21, with increased training of air crews and inspections of the aircraft.

JBER's F-22s had been flying nonstop from September until Thursday, starting with the most experienced pilots, said Coslett. The Alaska fighter jets have had no oxygen-related problems since they resumed flying, he said.

Daily News staff and wire reports