July 31, 2009 (by AFMC) - Air Force Materiel Command officials released an accident investigation report that determined that human factors associated with high gravitational forces caused the March 25 crash of an F-22 test aircraft 35 miles outside of Edwards AFB.
The test pilot, David Cooley, a Lockheed Martin employee, was killed in the mishap.
Mr. Cooley was a former Air Force pilot with significant flight experience, including in the F-22. The aircraft, assigned to the Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards AFB
, was destroyed. Total cost of the aircraft, equipment damage and property restoration has been estimated at $155 million.
According to the report, Mr. Cooley was conducting high-G maneuvers, which test aircraft capabilities and integrated equipment, prior to the accident. Witness statements, voice and telemetry data and simulations show he completed two of three planned tests. During his third test maneuver, however, he appeared to have been subjected to increased physiological stressors associated with high-G maneuvers, according to the report.
The board concluded this led to an "almost" loss of consciousness and lack of situational awareness, causing Mr. Cooley to delay his aircraft recovery maneuver.
The report states, "The [mission test pilot] regained partial [situational awareness] and attempted a late recovery from the test maneuver but determined there was inadequate altitude for a safe recovery and ejected."
Due to the speed of the aircraft and the windblast, the pilot immediately sustained fatal, blunt force trauma injuries upon ejection.
The accident board concluded that the aircraft itself was functioning normally and that there were no design or airworthiness issues that would impact the safe operation of the F-22 fleet.
"The loss of Mr. Cooley is tragic and keenly felt by everyone who knew him," said Maj. Gen. David W. Eidsaune, the Accident Investigation Board president. He was a superior test pilot and a member of the Air Force family. His service as a test pilot helped enhance the capabilities of fighter aircraft. Our thoughts and prayers continue to include the Cooley family."