Air Force says F-22 pilots’ coughing fits will continue

Posted at 7:39 AM, Feb 26, 2013
and last updated 2013-02-26 07:41:07-05

The Air Force says coughing fits experienced by F-22 pilots will continue and there is nothing that can be done about them.

The service says the cough has nothing to do with repaired oxygen systems and G-suits on the planes, according to Danger Room, who dug through newly-released congressional testimony on the ‘Raptor cough’.

The coughing — which, to be clear, is a totally separate issue from hypoxia — is due to a condition known as “acceleration atelectasis,” Maj. Gen. Charles Lyon, who headed the Air Force’s Raptor investigation, wrote in response to questions submitted following a September testimony before a House subcommittee. “Acceleration atelectasis results from pilots breathing high concentrations of oxygen (above 60 percent) while wearing anti-G trousers, and exposure to G-forces,” Lyon explained.

Maj. Jeremy Gordon, a Virginia Raptor flier who blew the whistle on the Air Force last year, described a typical room full of F-22 pilots where “the vast majority will be coughing a lot of the time.” One Air Force widow claimed her F-22 pilot husband’s coughing contributed to his suicide.

The coughing, Lyon continued, results from the closure of the lungs’ alveoli as oxygen-rich air is absorbed, leaving insufficient gas such as nitrogen behind to keep the alveoli open. “The normal physiologic response to re-open the alveoli is to cough,” Lyon wrote adding that an F–22 feeds its pilot higher concentrations of oxygen compared to other jets. Air Force spokesman Lt. Col. Tadd Sholtis told ABC News that the Raptor’s extreme performance — flying higher and faster than most planes — could also exacerbate the cough.

The Air Force also told congress it investigated claims by ground crews that the plane was making them sick and found no medical evidence of illness among those who worked on the plane

Read more at Danger Room