WASHINGTON, March 20 (UPI) -- The U.S. Air Force said it will modify the emergency oxygen handle in all F-22 Raptor fighter jets, after finding it played a role in the death of a star pilot.
The decision comes as the widow of Capt. Jeff Haney, who died when his F-22 crashed in the wilderness of Alaska in November 2010, filed a wrongful death suit. In her suit, Anna Haney asserts the F-22 is "unreasonably defective," saying the placement of the emergency oxygen handle was responsible for her husband's death.
John Noonan, aide to Rep. Howard P. McKeon, R-Calif., who is the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said the Air Force is researching the adjustments.
"One of the problems that was found with the emergency oxygen handle is that it's in a difficult place to get to in the dark," Noonan told the Los Angeles Times.
Investigators found that when on-board computers detected an air leak in the engine bay, the aircraft automatically shut down the oxygen system to prevent further damage. Haney's oxygen supply was effectively cut off, with the emergency handle in a difficult-to-reach location behind his seat.
The Air Force considers the F-22, in service since 2005, its most advanced fighter jet although it has never been used during hostilities in Iraq, Libya or Afghanistan.
The emergency oxygen handles will be replaced in 200 planes, at a cost of $47 each, the Air Force said.