Helen Pow – Daily Mail May 3, 2012
In an interview with ABC News, Jennifer Haney, sister of the late Captain Jeff Haney and spokeswoman for his family, said the Air Force had treated her brother as ‘a number’, choosing to defend the F22 Raptor plane he was flying because of its multimillion dollar price tag.
‘I’d like to think it’s easier to blame Jeff. He’s not here to defend himself,’ Haney said. ‘To them, Jeff was a number, it feels like sometimes. But those jets are worth a lot of money.’
The family believe the troubled plane cut off Haney’s oxygen supply mid-flight before crashing into a snow field about 100 miles north of Anchorage, Alaska.
Haney had been flying the F22 Raptor on a routine training mission in November 2010. He never made a distress call but took the plane into a dive and crashed into the wilderness a little over a minute later.
According to ABC News, the Air Force today received the last F22 Raptor from defense contracting giant Lockheed Martin, completing an order of 187 planes that cost U.S. taxpayers around $79 billion.
Including research, development and production, each plane has a price tag of more than $420 million.
An investigation into the crash could not find the cause of the malfunction but claimed ‘clear and convincing evidence’ proved Haney was to blame for the crash, at least in part, because he was too distracted by his inability to breathe to fly the plane properly.
But Haney’s sister, Jennifer, told ABC News she believes her brother blacked out trying to save himself and said that by blaming him, the Air Force was attempting to deflect attention from an ongoing, mysterious oxygen problem with the costly planes.
‘I don’t agree with [the Air Force]. I think there was a lot more going on inside that cockpit,’ Jennifer Haney said. ‘A cover-up? I don’t know. But there’s something.’
Critics told ABC News the expensive plane was a waste of money in today’s combat environment and, more importantly, could be more of a danger to its own pilots.
Since 2008, there have been at least 25 reported cases of F22 pilots experiencing ‘hypoxia-like symptoms’ mid-air.
Last year the Air Force grounded the full fleet of F22s for nearly five months to investigate but found nothing. The planes are now back in the air.
Hypoxia is caused by a lack of oxygen to the brain and results in dizziness, confusion, lack of judgment and, eventually, unconsciousness.
The Air Force told ABC News in a statement that the service was committed to ‘unparalleled dedication to flight safety’.
‘Flying America’s premier fighter aircraft always entails risk but the Air Force has, and always will, take every measure to ensure the safety of our aircrews while delivering air superiority for the nation,’ the statement read.