December 22, 2004 (by Master Sgt. Scott Elliott) - Commanders of units flying the F/A-22 Raptor called for a safety stand down of the fleet following a crash Dec. 20 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.
The pilot ejected safely and suffered no serious injuries.
The aircraft, assigned to the 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron at Nellis, crashed on takeoff and exploded. Officials said an interim safety board will investigate the accident, but it may take months before an official determination can be made as to the cause.
Maj. Gen. Stephen M. Goldfein, commander of the Air Warfare Center at Nellis, stood down the remaining seven F/A-22s at the base immediately following the crash pending a complete inspection. That inspection could take hours or days to complete, depending upon findings.
"The purpose (of the inspections) is to prevent anything like this from happening again," the general said.
Commanders at Tyndall AFB
, Fla., and Edwards AFB, Calif., have also suspended F/A-22s from flying during a precautionary safety stand down.
"It's doubtful (the Raptors) will be grounded for the entire length of the investigation," said Air Force spokesman Doug Karas.
"The Air Force will investigate the accident and apply what it learns to improve flight safety of the F/A-22," Mr. Karas said. "There should not be a long-term impact to the F/A-22 program."
The Raptor is a priority transformational program and has logged more than 7,000 flight hours. Air Force officials said they plan to purchase about 277 of the aircraft from Lockheed Martin Corp.
"I have full confidence in the investigation process and await the results of the accident and safety investigations," said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John P. Jumper. "Both investigations are important to determine the cause and prevent future mishaps."