LaSalle News-Tribune - Kinzinger out in front on USAF F-22 Raptor Safety Issue

News Article

Date: May 16, 2012

By Unknown

U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) on Tuesday said he still had "grave concerns" following a Pentagon announcement regarding the F-22 Raptor jet, and on Wednesday morning he appeared on CNN's "Starting Point" about the issue.

Kinzinger recently appeared on "60 Minutes" with two U.S. Air Force pilots who questioned the safety of the F-22 Raptor jet they were trained to fly.

According to CBS News, Maj. Jeremy Gordon and Capt. Joshua Wilson said they and other pilots experienced oxygen deprivation and disorientation during some flights. The Air Force had grounded the jets for several months in 2011 due to similar concerns.

The pilots appeared on "60 Minutes" to "blow the whistle" on the problem, and had approached Kinzinger to gain protection under the Military Whistleblower Protection Act, which allows members of the military to contact a member of Congress without facing retaliation from within the military.

On Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta instructed the Air Force to restrict F-22 flight activities, and to work with NASA and the Navy to find solutions to F-22 oxygen-deprivation issues. According to Kinzinger, restriction is a direct result from continued pressure on the Secretary of the Air Force by Kinzinger and by U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.).

While the two legislators were pleased with the progress made so far, they said there is more work to be done to ensure the safety of the pilots and to strengthen the F-22 Raptor program, according to a press release from Kinzinger's office.

"The F-22 Raptor is essential to a strong national defense in this country," Kinzinger said. "However, we must ensure this program is running at 100 percent and at this time, it is not. Senator Warner and I have grave concerns over the condition of the F-22 and are committed to making sure these pilots are safe and free from retribution. After today's briefing, I am hopeful that the Air Force will work with us to resolve this issue expeditiously."

Before being elected in 2010 to the House of Representatives, Kinzinger served as an Air Force pilot in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. He remains a pilot in the U.S. Air Force Reserves.