LOS ANGELES -- The Department of Defense inspector general has questioned an Air Force report of its investigation that blamed the pilot for the 2010 crash of an F-22 Raptor fighter jet in Alaska.
In its report released on Monday, the inspector general's office questioned the original findings of the Air Force's Accident Investigation Board (AIB) report on the F-22 crash.
"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," according to the inspector general's report.
The latest finding was interpreted by the family of the dead pilot as a vindication of Capt. Jeff Haney, whose Raptor crashed in the Alaska wilderness on Nov. 16, 2010. Haney had completed a routine training exercise when a malfunction in the plane shut down his oxygen system.
The original investigation did not find a reason for the malfunction but concluded that "by clear and convincing evidence, the cause of the mishap was the ... (pilot's) failure to recognize and initiate a timely dive recovery due to channelized attention, breakdown of visual scan, and unrecognized spatial disorientation."
The family has contested that finding. ABC News has extensively reported on the crash.
After the inspector general's report was released, Jennifer Haney, sister of Jeff Haney, told ABC she was "very happy about the (report) pointing out some of the discrepancies that we saw all along" in the Air Force's account.
"In the end, I really hope Jeff's name will be cleared," she said. "I never have believed he was to blame."
The Haney crash was featured in an investigation on ABC News' "Nightline" program that aired May 2, 2012. The family has charged that the Air Force would rather blame Haney for the crash rather than a flaw in the Raptor. The Air Force has denied that accusation.
In response to the inspector general's report, the Air Force said its task force found that the original conclusions were supported.
"Now they will bicker back and forth, so we will have to wait and see what happens and what changes, if any, are made to the (Air Force) report," Jennifer Haney told ABC on Tuesday.
The F-22 Raptor is America's most expensive fighter jet, costing an estimated $420 million each.
By MICHAEL MUSKAL
Los Angeles Times