August 5, 2011 (by Stars & Stripes) - Air Force F-22 pilots are losing their training edge as the Raptor fleet enters its fourth month of a grounding, the Air Force Times reported.
USAF F-22A block 35 no. 09-4173 from the 27th FS sits on the tarmac at Joint Base Langley-Eustis during an operational readiness inspection on April 10th, 2011. [USAF photo by A1C. Camilla Elizeu]
Pilots must fly a certain number of sorties each month as well as practice skills such as landings and maneuvers in order to stay current on the aircraft. A pilot who hasn't flown in 210 days must undergo complete requalification, according to the Times story. Each F-22 wing is developing a shortened requalification program to accommodate the grounded pilots, the story said.
A spokeswoman for Air Combat Command told the Air Force Times that pilots shifting to the Raptor have been told to return to their home stations until the jets are allowed to fly again. B-course students, the young pilots who are learning to fly the Raptor as their first fighter jet, have been limited to academics and simulator flights. Even the elite pilots at the U.S. Air Force Weapons School have been told to return to their home bases during the grounding.
The Raptors have been grounded since May after several pilots experienced hypoxia-like symptoms. Air Force officials do not yet know the cause but suspect carbon monoxide and toxins seeping into the cockpits.