UK & World News

  • 16 November 2012, 12:01

F-22 Crashes Near Highway 98 In Florida

A US Air Force fighter jet has crashed near a major road in Florida, but the pilot ejected safely and there were no injuries on the ground, the military said.

The single-seat stealth fighter, part of a programme that has been plagued with problems, went down on Thursday afternoon near Tyndall Air Force Base, just south of Panama City.

The pilot received medical treatment at the base and a section of Highway 98 was closed as rescuers responded.

The crash was on Tyndall property and no one on the ground was hurt, said Air Force SergeantRachelle Elsea, a spokeswoman for the base where F-22 pilots train.

The air force said the plane went down in a wooded area near the road.

The cause of the crash is not clear, but the air force has been trying to address problems with the $190m (119.8m) aircraft for several years.

In 2008, pilots began reporting a sharp increase in hypoxia-like problems, forcing the air force to finally acknowledge concerns about the F-22's oxygen supply system.

Two years later, the oxygen system contributed to a fatal crash. Though pilot error ultimately was deemed to be the cause, the fleet was grounded for four months in 2011.

New restrictions were imposed in May, after two F-22 pilots appeared on CBS' 60 Minutes programme to express their continued misgivings.

The air force has insisted the F-22 is safe to fly - a dozen of the jets began a six-month deployment to Japan in July - but flight restrictions that remain in place will keep it out of the high-altitude situations where pilots' breathing is under the most stress.

Internal documents and emails obtained by The Associated Press earlier this year show air force experts actually proposed a range of solutions by 2005, including adjustments to the flow of oxygen into pilots' masks.

But that key recommendation was rejected by military officials reluctant to add costs to a programme that was already well over budget.

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