Updated: Friday, 07 Oct 2011, 5:21 PM MDT
Published : Friday, 07 Oct 2011, 5:21 PM MDT
ALAMOGORDO, N.M. (KRQE) - The Air Force's premiere fighter plane is back in the air after four months of being grounded.
And it's a welcome sight in the skies over Alamogordo.
The F-22 Raptors have been back in business at Holloman Air Force base in Alamogordo for about two weeks now, and the atmosphere on base reflects that.
"It's a very good thing, the sound of freedom is wonderful," said Senior Master Sgt. Diane Hansen.
"We stopped flying because of concerns about the oxygen systems. In the meantime we've done several inspections and time compliance technical orders to ensure that the systems are as safe as we can make them," Hansen explained.
There are 28 F-22s at Holloman, and getting them all back in the air has been all hands on deck.
The F-22s at Holloman fly about twice a day, and after each first flight, maintenance crews run through a checklist to make sure everything is running smoothly.
Workers are back to their normal routines; everyone from maintenance crews, to air traffic control, to the pilots themselves.
But it's been a lengthy process.
"They were off four months so they all had to re-certify and re-qualify in the aircraft, so if something had happened during that four months, we wouldn't have had really qualified pilots," explained Ed Brabson, past chair of The Alamogordo Committee of 50.
"So now we do and they're getting back into action and they're all happy, you can just see their faces now," Brabson said. "The guys are up there flying they're doing what they love because most of these guys really love their occupation--it's a lifestyle, not just a job."
With the worlds most maneuverable aircraft back in flight, Air Force officials say nothing can touch it.
"I think the biggest thing, it takes this cloud off of everybody's shoulder that there's a problem in the Air Force, that Lockheed, or whoever could not resolve, and this is, now it's behind them," Brabson said.
"On a daily basis we were waiting to have the safety investigation done and figure out what we can do better with these airplanes, but knowing that you aren't ready to go to war, you aren't ready to do what we're sworn to do everyday was hard--but we're back now," Hansen said.
Back indeed, and Air Force officials said the crews, the base, and the raptor will stay in action.
Since the safety investigation, the Air Force has implemented new monitoring procedures for the pilot and the aircraft, and is still working to ensure the safety of the oxygen systems.