Despite Investigation, Safety Concerns Linger on F-22
by Bob Cox
Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Aug. 25, 2012
Problems that have imperiled pilots of the famed F-22 Raptor fighter jet are being fixed, a senior Air Force leader said this month.
Not everyone, however, is reassured.
Count Joanna Tinsley among the nonbelievers. In July 2008, her husband, veteran F-22 pilot Brig. Gen. Thomas “Pugs” Tinsley, committed suicide.
Tinsley, who was 45, commanded Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage, Alaska, and was still flying F-22s when he shot himself in the chest one afternoon in an uncharacteristic outburst of rage.
In a lengthy interview with the Star-Telegram, Joanna Tinsley said her husband experienced big changes during the last few months of his life. He was normally a happy, highly energetic and caring man, but he deteriorated physically and emotionally.
“He was short-tempered. He was impatient. He would get mad at things that never would have agitated him before,” said Tinsley, who now lives in Phoenix.
“He was more foggy-headed. He would ask questions over and over again and then stare at you with a blank look.”
Tinsley suffered headaches, his appetite diminished, and he had trouble sleeping. He was plagued by a chronic cough, a common problem for F-22 pilots.
Now, after reading reports of strange occurrences involving other F-22 pilots and comparing notes with other wives, Tinsley said she can’t help but believe that the Air Force’s prized fighter is a health risk. Something about the F-22, she theorizes, may have triggered her husband’s suicide.
“They’re seeing the same things, the same changes that I saw in Tom,” Tinsley said.
Tinsley, another wife and two former engineers who worked on the plane’s development are among those who believe that something still isn’t right with the F-22, which was partially built at Lockheed Martin’s Fort Worth plant.
Reassuring statements aside, they said, the fighter’s problems haven’t been fixed and are worse than the Air Force lets on.
Numerous reports over the past four-plus years described F-22 pilots as becoming disoriented, even blacking out in flight. A lingering cough and respiratory problems were commonly reported, as well as neurological and emotional problems. Two pilots were killed in F-22 crashes.
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Filed under: Resources Tagged: | Air Force wives, Alaska Air Force, Brig. Gen. Thomas "Pugs" Tinsley, Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage, F-22 Investigation, F-22 Raptor, Joanna Tinsley, Lockheed Martin Fort Worth plant, Suicide prevention