Raptor Culture

The Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor is a high-performance stealth fighter plane used only by the US Air Force (stealth = not detectable by radar). Production was halted in 2011, but the U.S.A.F continues to have 187 Raptors in operation.  Each plane cost $350m, 3.5 times the cost of one of the RAF’s Typhoon fighters.  The technology of the Raptor was considered so secret that the makers were banned by the US government from selling it to third countries.

It is a high-tech aircraft and that brings complexity, and complexity requires more control.  The plane is also quite unstable, which is what gives it its high manoeuvrability, a big advantage for a fighter plane.

Recently, an F-22 took off from a base in Alaska and almost immediately slumped back to earth, skidding along the runway for 2 kilometres before coming to a halt.  It turned out that this had happened before.

The pilots have to use a complex take-off and landing data (TOLD) tool  to determine how they get airborne.  This varies with the outside temperature and the altitude of the airfield.  When F-22 pilots were questioned about their use of TOLD, more than half said they didn’t use it, they just took off as if they were at their home airfield. So they were ignoring a key control that ensured that their $350m plane would not crash on take-off. The accident report concluded that the problem was “culture”.

A poor risk management culture is where controls are not performed, and sooner or later there will be a crash of some description…

Sources: LinkedIn post by Aerossurance, Wikipedia

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