Pilots from throughout the Marine Corps are already applying lessons learned from the investigation of an MV-22 Osprey crash in Morocco in April, the chief of Marine aviation said in Washington, D.C., Aug. 17.
Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Robert E. Schmidle Jr. said the recently concluded investigation found no mechanical or material failures. “There were no issues with the safety of the aircraft,” he told reporters at a Pentagon news conference. He attributed the crash to “an extraordinarily complex set of circumstances.”
Two Marines – Cpl. Robby A. Reyes and Cpl. Derek A. Kerns – were killed in the incident and the pilot and co-pilot were injured.
The Marines were part of Marine Medium Tilt-rotor Squadron 231. The aircraft and Marines were part of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit aboard the USS Iwo Jima. They were participating in Exercise African Lion, a military exercise with Morocco, and had just delivered 12 Marines to the Moroccan training area.
Schmidle told reporters the aircraft took off with its nose pointed into the wind. Typically, the aircraft would move nose into the wind and fly off, he said. But rather than fly over troops and equipment, the pilots hovered the aircraft and rotated right. With the wind behind them, the pilots then shifted the aircraft propellers toward fixed wing flight. This caused the plane’s center of gravity to shift forward, pushing the nose down. That, plus a strong tailwind, caused it to crash, Schmidle said.
The aircraft could have flown as a helicopter and avoided the accident, he said. The crew also could have flown over the troops and equipment with no ill effects aside from downdrafts.
The Marine Corps will apply information from the accident investigation where it makes sense to do so, the general said. “There are some things we are going to do right away,” he said. “We are briefing all the MV-22 pilots and aircrew on this mishap … so they all understand what occurred and what caused this to happen with the tail wind component.”
The Marines will also make changes in simulation training to recreate the effect in Morocco so pilots can recognize the situation and take appropriate steps when they encounter it, he said. “In training, we are going to look and see what we can do in the academic syllabus,” Schmidle added.
More than half of the reporters attending today’s Pentagon news conference represented media from Japan, where there has been concern about the plane’s safety. Twelve Ospreys arrived in Japan in late July, and will eventually operate out of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma on the island of Okinawa. Many Japanese oppose the move and anti-Osprey groups say the aircraft is inherently unsafe. But Schmidle called the plane “solid and safe,” noting it has a 1.94 mishap rate per 100,000 flight hours – well below the rate for rotary wing aircraft.
Marine Corps officials have said their service chose the MV-22 to replace the 1950s vintage CH-46 helicopter because of its revolutionary capabilities. It takes off and lands like a helicopter but flies like a fixed-wing plane. It is twice as fast as the CH-46, can carry three times the payload and has approximately four times the combat radius.