This image from the Marine Corps shows a deadly event that occurred on October 1 last year. The crew flew the Osprey in maintenance mode by accident, which greatly reduced engine power output. The harrowing story of heroics and the loss of a young Marine’s life, is a must read in this article by the San Diego Union Tribune.
After taking off and quickly losing altitude, the pilots stayed with the aircraft while the two crew chiefs bailed out the back. Only one survived. Even the survivor barely made it, as he was weighted down by his flack jacket, wearing a semi-defective life preserver and covered in jet fuel. Meanwhile, the pilots continued to dump fuel while the aircraft struggled partially submerged.
Finally, after porpoising in and out of the water and struggling for ten minutes, the Osprey began to gain altitude. The pilots chose to put it abruptly back on the ship’s deck while fuel continued to be dumped from its tanks, running from the aircraft abruptly after touchdown for fear that the Osprey’s hot exhaust would ignite the fuel on the deck.
These aircraft sound far more dangerous than I initially thought. While on some level I understand why the Osprey is important to the military and the additional capabilities it brings to the table. But considering the number of fatal incidents it has been involved in, it sure seems like a lot of unnecessary risk.
Thus it is hoped that the U.S. forces will be deployed expeditiously in the event of such large-scale disasters as an earthquake with its focus directly beneath Tokyo or along the Nankai Trough. In the wake of Nepal’s devastating earthquake, the MV-22s stationed in Okinawa Prefecture have been dispatched to disaster-stricken areas.
In this respect, it is worrisome that there is still misunderstanding over the Osprey’s safety record.
Serious accidents involving MV-22s occurred at a rate of 2.12 per 100,000 flight hours as of last September, ranking the MV-22 low in terms of accidents among all U.S. military aircraft. While the corresponding rate for CV-22s is slightly higher at 7.21, the figure reflects a reduction by half over four years. The U.S. military should do everything it can to enhance the safety of Osprey operations.
For its part, the Japanese government is set to provide information about safety and noise countermeasures to municipalities where Osprey aircraft will be stationed, including Fussa, Tokyo. The government must bear in mind that such explanations must be considerate as well as convincing.
One Marine died and several were injured in an MV-22 Osprey aircraft hard-landing incident Sunday morning at Bellows Air Force Station.
At least twelve of 22 Marines onboard were injured in a “hard-landing mishap,” which occurred at about 11 a.m. when the aircraft from the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, based out of Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in California, was conducting training, said Capt. Alex Lim, a spokesman for the U.S. Marine Corps’ Forces Pacific.
The Pentagon said on Monday it plans to station a squadron of tilt-rotor CV-22 Osprey aircraft at the Yokota Air Base in Japan to enable U.S. special operations troops to respond quickly to crises in the Asia-Pacific region.
The first three Air Force variants of the CV-22 will arrive at the U.S. base on the outskirts of Tokyo in the last half of 2017, with an additional seven due to arrive by 2021, the Pentagon said in a statement.
The Osprey, which takes off like a helicopter and then rotates its propellers to fly like a plane, obtained a reputation for technical difficulties and safety problems during its development phase in the 1990s. Since then, it has largely overcome the issues, but crashes during training exercises in Morocco and Florida in early 2012 exacerbated Japanese concerns about the planes.
The residents of Okinawa – rightfully so – were vehemently opposed to these aircraft being deployed to a base situated in a semi-rural area of the island. Now that the U.S. plans to station a CV-22 squadron on mainland Japan, I suspect this will not be the last time we hear about Osprey’s in the news here in Japan.