12/1/2010 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska (AFNS) -- After two weeks of intense effort, a joint Air Force and Army team has suspended recovery and restoration efforts for the F-22 Raptor that crashed Nov. 16 near Cantwell, Alaska.
An Air Force team did recover the remains of the pilot, Capt. Jeff Haney. Safety experts are now examining the wreckage as they seek to determine the cause of the accident.
Air Force officials say much as been done to clean up the crash site but caution some risks remain. Any debris discovered by snowmachiners or others in the area should not be handled, said Air Force Col. (Dr.) Paul Friedrichs, the JBER medical group commander.
"Modern composite aircraft, including the F-22, use materials that can present health risks if they are mishandled," Dr. Friedrichs said.
Air Force officials established a call center at (907) 552-9321 for anyone who finds debris that may be part of the aircraft so trained technicians can recover the material safely and minimize any long-term impact to the environment. Visible pieces of the wreckage have been removed from the site.
"The health risks become significant if you don't have the proper equipment and are cutting or grinding pieces of the airplane," Dr. Friedrichs said.
Although the risk of medical problems is low if someone picks up a part of the plane and immediately places it down, Air Force officials strongly encourage anyone who believes they may have found a piece of the plane not to handle it, due to risk of skin irritation or rash from the materials used to build the plane.
"When our technicians work with these materials, they wear eye protection, respirators and thick, industrial gloves," said Master Sgt. Monty Wood, an F-22 maintenance supervisor.
Air Force officials also are concerned winter snow and runoff could expose other aircraft parts that may be hazardous. Sergeant Wood explained many aircraft parts contain highly pressurized gasses or flammable components that could be dangerous if disturbed.
Col. Jack McMullen, the 3rd Wing commander, praised the support the Air Force has received from state and local officials and Alaskans who live in the vicinity of the crash.
"The people who live and work in this area understand how challenging the weather and terrain can be, and they've been incredibly generous with help and advice," Colonel McMullen said. "I want to make sure we do everything we can to keep those folks and other visitors safe until we can get back in there to complete the restoration process."