Since January 2020, F-22 #05-4085 had been sitting in a hangar after an incident upon landing caused the fifth-generation Raptor to skid across the runway.
F-22 Raptor #05-4085 made its first flight at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in more than a year on Apr. 9 after maintainers restored the aircraft following a landing gear failure mishap on Jan. 16, 2020, Alert5 first noted.
“I knew without a doubt that my team was the best possible team I could’ve had and that we did everything within our power to make that jet better than it was the day before the mishap,” Master Sgt. Christopher Plath, 192nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, Virginia Air National Guard (VaANG) said in the article VaANG maintainers rebuild F-22 Raptor after collapse on JBLE flight line by Tech. Sgt. Lucretia Cunningham, 192nd Wing. “But, there’s still doubt in the back of your mind ‘did we do everything?’ ‘did we miss something?’”
In the days leading up, the Guardsmen went to great lengths to double, and triple check their work. They consulted with Lockheed Martin engineers, conducted a high-speed taxi to test any rattling or drag on the brake system and even took the jet into the Hush House, a specialized, insulated facility where jet engines are tested at their maximum performance, to induce any possible points of failure.
Since January 2020, “eight-five” had been sitting in a hangar after an incident upon landing caused the fifth-generation Raptor to skid across the runway. Maintenance Airmen reported hearing the unnerving sound as it came to a screeching stop on its right wing that day.
“As soon as it touched down and collapsed, I was in shock,” Plath said. “We kind of just stood there staring at it, praying the canopy is going to open up and the pilot is going to get out.”
The incident happened at about 1 p.m. and the pilot was taken to Joint Base Langley-Eustis Hospital for evaluation and then released with no major injuries.
Once they confirmed the pilot was safe, 1st Fighter Wing and 192nd Wing maintainers immediately got to work ordering parts and formulating a plan to get eight-five back into the fight.
VaANG Airmen train and fight side-by-side with active-duty Airmen as part of the total force integration between the 1st FW and 192nd Wing, contributing to the Combat Air Forces’ warfighting capabilities. The partnership was established in 2005 and allows the VaANG to share in the support of airpower worldwide, including the maintenance and operation of the F-22 Raptor.
Before it could take off, tail #85 required a massive overhaul including new landing gear, a new flight control surface on the right wing and a new wing tip.
The team: Staff Sgt. Drevonte Swain and Senior Airman Ethan Martin, 192nd Maintenance Squadron low observable Airmen, were pivotal in repairing significant outer-skin damage. Tech. Sgt. Kenneth Carpenter and Staff Sgt. Nicholas Potter, 192nd AMXS weapons load crew members, ensured the main weapons-bay door was replaced and the weapons bay operational. Staff Sgt. Lauren Hayes, 192nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron avionics specialist, ensured the integrity of the aircraft’s integrated systems. Along with Plath, Tech. Sgt. Eric Talman and Staff Sgt. James Sheaves Jr., 192nd AMXS crew chiefs, were in charge of the overall maintenance and repairs—together they were “Team 8-5.”
More than 130 days of collaborating diverse specialties proved successful for the team.
As it taxied down the flight line towards its first takeoff in over a year, Talman bid the jet a final “see you soon” with a slight graze on its left wing as it went by. Plath, along with Lt. Col. Timothy Strouse, 192nd AMXS commander, and Chief Master Sgt. Gregg Allen, 192nd AMXS superintendent, walked down to get a closer view of the aircraft taking flight.
Maj. Daniel “Honcho” Thompson, the F-22 pilot assigned to the 149th Fighter Squadron, ripped through the air space as observers watched idly for almost an hour; “the real test is the landing,” Plath said. After safely landing and taxiing to his staging area, Thompson signaled a sign of approval.
“He gave me a thumbs up as he went by,” Plath said. “It made me feel super relieved, and words can’t describe how proud I am of the men and women assigned to my team. All the hard work; the blood, sweat, tears. The nerves and anxiousness, at some points frustration and anger. All of that came to an end and became worth it to see the airplane take off and land safely.”
Photo credit: U.S. Air Force