The two Air Force pilots who put their careers on the line to blow the whistle on the military's F-22 fleet on 60 Minutes will have their chance at vindication.
National Journal's Kevin Baron scoops that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has ordered the Air Force to poll all of its F-22 pilots to see if they agree with Maj. Jeremy Gordon and Capt. Joshua Wilson that the planes should be grounded due to a faulty oxygen system. In an unprecedented interview earlier this month, Gordon and Wilson went on camera claiming that "a vast, silent majority" of F-22 Raptor pilots believe their lives are in danger because the high-tech jets make them black out or temporarily lose control.
In response to Wilson and Gordon refusing to fly the planes, the Air Force has rebutted allegations the entire fleet should be grounded. “We live in a community where risk is part of our lives,” Gen. Mike Hostage, the Air Force’s top fighter commander, said. “Right now, we believe that risk — although it’s not as low as we would like it — is low enough to safely operate the airplane at the current tempo.” Similarly, Air Force General Michael Hostage told 60 Minutes' Lesley Stahl that "I don't see a reason to stand the plane down."
But with this decision, Wilson and Gordon look like they were correct to have concerns about the plane. (And in case you're counting the money, the planes cost a cool $400 million each.) As for 60 Minutes, the investigative team can start to celebrate the impact of their report. According to Baron, Panetta is also expected to "ask the Air Force to accelerate development of a backup oxygen system for the F-22 Raptor."
Meanwhile, Wilson and Gordon can be at ease for now that they won't be formally punished for breaking the chain of command. They've both received whistleblower status from the Air Force. So will their fellow pilots vindicate them? See the full 60 Minutes report below: