Capt. Jeff "Bong" Haney was headed back to base in his F-22 Raptor fighter jet, ripping through the frigid Alaskan night beyond the speed of sound at more than 1,000 mph, when things started going terribly wrong.
Packed tight in cold-weather gear to protect him from the bitter temperatures, the Air Force pilot pulled back on the control stick at about 38,400 feet to gain altitude. Then Haney saw his plane was beginning to fail him.
A caution light glowed green through his night vision goggles, alerting him that a section of the aircraft was overheating. Almost instantly, the F-22’s onboard computers detected an air leak in the engine bay and began automatic shutdown of various systems — including the main oxygen supply.
Gasping for air, Haney set the throttles to idle and began lowering the plane to the snow-covered valley below. About 35 seconds later, Haney’s plane began to roll upside down. He couldn’t recover. There amid the Talkeetna Mountains north of Anchorage, Haney, 31, crashed and died.
The crash was another grim episode for the controversial Lockheed Martin Corp.-made F-22 fighter jet that has been in service since 2005, yet never called into combat despite conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. The plane, the military’s most expensive fighter jet, has continued to experience equipment problems — notably with its oxygen systems.