As the Air Force searches desperately for the source of a mysterious and potentially deadly oxygen system problem in its $79 billion fleet of F-22 Raptor fighter jets, it is also investigating why the jets’ pilots are coughing so often after missions that the pilots have taken to calling it the “Raptor cough.”
For decades pilots in fighter jets have been contending with temporary fits of coughing after executing extreme maneuvers in the air, due to a known condition called acceleration atelectasis, but an Air Force spokesperson told ABC News that the coughing appears to be more prevalent in F-22 pilots.
And while the current thinking by the Air Force is that the F-22 pilots suffer more bouts of coughing than their counterparts is because the F-22 can fly at more extreme speeds and altitudes, Air Force spokesperson Lt. Col. Tadd Sholtis told ABC News that the service has not discounted the possibility that toxins that may have leaked in to the oxygen system could be exacerbating the coughing.
The leakage of toxins into the oxygen system is also a possible cause of F-22 pilots experiencing dangerous “hypoxia-like symptoms” while flying the Raptor in more than two dozen cases since 2008, as reported in a recent ABC News’ “Nightline” investigation. Hypoxia is caused by a lack of oxygen to the brain and is characterized by dizziness, disorientation, poor judgment and, eventually, unconsciousness. . .