An Air Force F-22 Raptor jet fighter crashed in the California desert this year after the pilot apparently almost lost consciousness in a maneuver under high gravitational force then ejected because he was too low to recover, an investigation board found.
The investigation found no problems with the design or airworthiness of the F-22, a costly air-to-air combat warplane that may be curtailed by defense spending cutbacks. Under pressure by President Barack Obama's administration, the House and Senate have voted to end production.
The Air Force estimated total losses from the accident at $155 million.
Lockheed Martin spokesman Rob Fuller had no comment Tuesday on the details of the accident investigation but said the company was saddened by the loss of its pilot.
In a statement dated July 31, the Air Force said Cooley was performing high-gravity maneuvers to test the aircraft's capabilities and equipment.
G-forces affect blood flow in the body, so pilots of high-performance jets wear pressure garments and use techniques such as muscle tensing to try to counteract problems.
Based on witness statements, voice and telemetry data and simulations, the report found that Cooley was doing the last of three tests when he appeared to come under increased physiological stress, leading to near-loss of consciousness and lack of situational awareness.
Cooley regained partial awareness "and attempted a late recovery from the test maneuver but determined there was inadequate altitude for a safe recovery and ejected," the report found.
The head of the accident investigation board, Maj. Gen. David W. Eidsaune, said in a statement that he was "a superior test pilot."
His employer said: "David was an expert pilot and valued member of the Lockheed Martin team who was committed to his job as a test pilot."
Source: AP News