(NEW YORK) — Defense contracting giants Lockheed Martin and Boeing have settled a wrongful death lawsuit leveled against them by the widow of an F-22 fighter pilot killed in a crash shortly after his plane malfunctioned, a Boeing spokesperson said.
The settlement, first reported by Aviation Week, is the culmination of a suit filed in March against Lockheed Martin, Boeing and other major defense contractors involved in the plane’s production by Anna Haney, the widow of Capt. Jeff Haney. Anna Haney accused the contractors of knowingly providing the Air Force a “dangerous” and “defective” aircraft.
“The matter has settled and the settlement terms are confidential,” a Boeing spokesperson told ABC News. The spokesperson declined to comment further.
Capt. Haney, father of two young girls, had just completed a routine training mission in Alaska in November 2010 when his F-22 malfunctioned and cut off his oxygen. The plane went into a dive and, about a minute later, slammed into the winter wilderness at faster than the speed of sound.
After a months-long investigation, the Air Force released a report claiming, “by clear and convincing evidence” that Haney was to blame for the crash because he was essentially too distracted by his inability to breathe to fly the plane properly.
The Air Force said they did not believe Haney was unconscious due to lack of oxygen at any point in his ordeal — a claim strongly disputed by his family and questioned by other F-22 pilots, aviation experts and the Pentagon’s own Inspector General, who has launched a rare review of the Air Force investigation. Haney’s family said it was more likely he had passed out due to lack of oxygen at least part of the time and, therefore, could not be held responsible for the crash.
“I’d like to think it’s easier to blame Jeff. He’s not here to defend himself,” Jennifer Haney, Capt. Jeff Haney’s sister and family spokesperson, told ABC News in an exclusive interview in May. “To them, Jeff was a number, it feels like sometimes. But those jets are worth a lot of money.”
Jeff Haney’s wife, Anna, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Lockheed Martin and other contractors involved in making the plane in March, charging that they were allowed full “latitude” in the details of the plane’s design and were therefore responsible for the mishap that took Haney’s life.
Lockheed Martin said at the time the lawsuit was filed that while Jeff Haney’s death was a tragedy, the company disagreed with his widow’s claims and would fight them in court. A Lockheed Martin spokesperson did not immediately respond to requests for comment on this report.
The F-22 Raptor, America’s most expensive fighter jet at $420 million-a-piece, was the subject of an ABC News Nightline investigation after on more than two dozen occasions pilots reported experiencing the symptoms of oxygen deprivation in mid-air. In one instance, a pilot apparently became so disoriented that he flew down and skimmed treetops before righting the aircraft and saving himself.
The Air Force recently claimed to have solved the potentially deadly F-22 conundrum and maintains it was wholly separate from the malfunction that hit Haney’s plane before his crash.
Despite going combat operational in late 2005, not one plane in the $79 billion fleet has been sent into combat. From Iraq and Afghanistan to last year’s “no-fly zone” over Libya, the Air Force said the sophisticated stealth fighters simply weren’t necessary.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Doug Criss, CNN
Heather Long, CNN
Ralph Ellis, CNN