Fighter jet's defective oxygen-supply system caused crash

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February 12, 2013

Fighter jet's defective oxygen-supply system caused crash 

The plaintiff sued the aircraft’s designer and manufacturer, alleging that the jet’s design failed to protect critical life-support systems from the impact of bleed-air system failures, among other claims. The parties settled before trial for a confidential amount. Haney v. Boeing Co.

U.S. Air Force Captain Jeffrey Haney, 31, was piloting an F-22 Raptor fighter jet on a routine training mission in Alaska. As he was returning to base, one of the aircraft’s systems detected an engine bleed air leak and triggered a function that stopped the on-board oxygen-generating system. The airflow to Haney’s oxygen mask was cut off, and his breathing was severely restricted. The jet crashed in the Alaskan wilderness, killing Haney. He is survived by his wife and two minor daughters.

Haney’s wife, on behalf of his estate, sued Lockheed Martin Corp., which designed and manufactured the aircraft, and several other companies involved in its production or design. The plaintiff alleged that the plane crashed because Haney lost consciousness. Among other things, the plaintiff contended that (1) the jet’s design failed to protect critical life-support systems from the impact of bleed-air system failures;  (2) the backup oxygen system did not automatically provide breathable oxygen to the pilot; and (3) the backup system could be activated only manually from a location that was impossible for the pilot to access while flying the aircraft. The plaintiff also contended that the defendants were aware of the defects but failed to timely correct them.

The parties settled before trial for a confidential amount.

Citation: Haney v. Boeing Co., No. 1:12-cv-02729 (N.D. Ill. Aug. 14, 2012).

Plaintiff counsel: AAJ member Michael Kelly Demetrio, Chicago; and John J. Gagliano and Bradley J. Stoll, both of Philadelphia.

Comment: Numerous Air Force pilots have reported hypoxia-like symptoms, including dizziness and blackouts, while piloting F-22 jets. The Air Force recently contracted with Lockheed to install an automatic backup oxygen system in the jet. Until that work is completed, the jets are grounded from flying air patrol missions in Alaska.


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