Pilot in Limbo after 60 Minutes Interview

Two years ago, two pilots took to 60 Minutes — with a Congressman for protection — to declare the F-22 had serious oxygen problems and the Air Force wasn’t acting with a sense of urgency to fix them.

Now, the lower ranking of the two, Capt Joshua Wilson, is still wondering if he’ll ever get back in the cockpit:

A member of the Virginia Air National Guard’s 149th Fighter Squadron, Wilson hasn’t been permitted to fly the jet since early 2012. He’s fighting disciplinary actions that he sees as retribution for going public.

Wilson has reportedly had his promotion revoked, been prohibited from serving in a full-time position with ACC, and told he would face an FEB — a flying evaluation board that would likely take away his wings.

According to the report, the other pilot involved, Maj Jeremy Gordon, no longer flies the F-22 either — though he’s still in the unit as a target T-38 pilot. Gordon reportedly received a personal phone call from the Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen Mark Welsh, asking if he wanted to fly the F-22 again. Gordon said no. There’s no indication Wilson received a similar call.

Fellow ANG pilot and US Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Il), the Congressman who helped the two go public, says he has “no doubt this is reprisal.” Virginia Senator Mark Warner was initially less strident, but said something “doesn’t smell right.”  He later wrote a letter that minced no words:

“This cannot stand,” Warner and U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger wrote in the letter to Hagel, arguing that the treatment of Capt. Joshua Wilson is sending the message that military leaders will retaliate against service members who speak out about wrongdoing.

One notable highlight in the article is the stereotypical career “death through praise,” with his next OPR:

It described Wilson as an “average officer” during 2012. Without mentioning his television appearance, the review, which Nardi approved, described Wilson as a “photogenic, driven and vocal officer; willing to express and share views regarding F-22A operations at all levels.”

That wasn’t intended to be a compliment.  There are indications that some of the “angst” about Capt Wilson may be personal, rather than professional.  An F-22 crew chief commented on one of the articles about the incident and seemed to take personal offense at the thought he may have launched an “unsafe” aircraft.  He was so offended, in fact, he hoped Wilson never flies there again.  Left out of the comment — a comment made in the present, presumably with the benefit of hindsight — is the fact the Air Force essentially validated pilot concerns about the F-22.  In other words, the crew chief may very well have launched an unsafe aircraft, but it was something over which he had no control; it wasn’t personal, but some in the Guard unit appear to be making it so.

For his part, Wilson indicates the Air Force would rather he just go away — but, in typical fighter pilot fashion, he wants to either be allowed to return to fly or, if he really is a “bad officer,” to be kicked out:

“If you guys can prove I’m a bad officer, kick me out of the military,” he said. “If not, let me get back to my job.”

Also at the Stars and Stripes, Military.com, and the Air Force Times.