JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM (HawaiiNewsNow) - For the first time in months, Hawaii Air National Guard pilots are once again flying F-22 fighter jets.
Two of the stealthy fighters were prepared for flight at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam Wednesday afternoon.
The entire fleet of "Raptors" was grounded in May after 12 reported incidents in which pilots experienced hypoxia-like symptoms. Hypoxia is when the body does not get enough oxygen. None of the reports involved Hawaii National Guard pilots.
"It's been almost five months since the grounding took place. So to resolve that and get the aircraft back in the air and get them flying is a great moment," said Lt. Col. Chris Faurot, commander of the 199th Fighter Squadron.
During the grounding, National Guard pilots continued their training, but in simulators.
"Being in a simulator is one thing, but being in the actual aircraft where you're experiencing the G-forces, where you're actually doing the maneuvers, is a whole other thing," said National Guard spokesman Lt. Chuck Anthony.
The return to flight plan will include rigorous inspections and training on life support systems. Data will also continue to be collected on the Raptor's oxygen systems.
But the main focus right now is to get pilots used to being in actual flight, after all those hours in the simulator.
"The idea is to get everyone familiarized with actual flying again," Anthony said. "They want to make sure that everybody gets back up to a certain level of proficiency before they start doing things that are rather complex with the aircraft."
The Air Force did not explain exactly what had changed to allow the fleet to return to the air, but in a statement, said each Raptor would have its life support systems inspected before it is allowed to fly.