Five Bodies Found In Osprey Wreckage


Navy divers have found a large piece of the V-22 Osprey that went down off Japan Nov. 29. The wreckage, which includes the flight deck, contains the bodies of five of the eight people who were aboard the aircraft. Two of the bodies were recovered Monday. There are still two bodies missing. The remains of Staff Sgt. Jacob Galliher, 24, of Massachusetts, was found shortly after the crash, which occurred off the coast of Yakushima Island.

The crew of the tiltrotor declared an emergency and was diverting to the island on a training flight. They were headed to Okinawa before the diversion. It’s the second fatal Osprey crash in three months. Three marines were killed in an accident in Australia in late August. Japan, the only other country operating Ospreys, has grounded its fleet and wants the U.S. to do the same until all the aircraft can undergo a thorough inspection.

The Air Force did ground its 52 Ospreys Monday for an issue unrelated to the crash in Japan. A recurring problem with the clutches that transfer power between the two engines prompted the grounding. It hasn’t caused any crashes or injuries but it can be alarming when it happens and the Air Force is concerned it will startle a flight crew and lead to a crash.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.


  1. The V-22 Osprey is the ONLY aircraft that I would refuse to fly on. If a helicopter is a group of parts trying to shake itself apart, THESE things are worse. How many of these things has to crash before someone up high decides the design is just too complicated for routine military maintenance and flight and shuts it down? I have no quarrel with the need for an airplane that can fulfil the MISSION of the V-22 … my beef is that the designs — throughout the years … XC-124, XV-15, et al — necessary to provide a viable machine are just too complicated.
    I’m sure someone will chime in and say … ‘wait until we know what happened.’ I don’t need to wait. These things are dangerous. The number of crashes and other incidents speak for themselves. I was at Edwards AFB during the testing of the XV-15 … that thing scared a lot of people. There were a lot of airplanes built to meet a mission requirement that were deemed too complicated, too dangerous or too something; it’s time to put this thing into that box, too.
    During flight testing between 1991 and 2000, 30 people died in four crashes. After becoming operational in 2007, 12 more crashes plus other accidents and incidents have killed 33 more people, 13 of them in the last two years. The operational advantage of such a design is far outweighed by the crash and fatality history. Time to send these things to Tucson.


    • I sure hope Bell has learned from the Osprey and that their new offering will be better. But I can’t help but think that tilt-rotors are just by their nature too complicated, just like there aren’t any operational swing-wing aircraft any more (at least in the US).

        • Thanks, forgot about that one. I should have said that there are no more swing-wing aircraft in development.

          • I was at Edwards during the entire flight test evolutions of the B-1A, it’s cancellation, restart under Reagan as the B-1B and delivery of all of them. There were several B-1B’s who’s wing mechanisms didn’t work right ever. So — yes– complicated machines don’t always do what they’re supposed to do. One B-1B had to land on the dry lakebed at >250kts because the wing fold mechanism wouldn’t put them back out. That said, there was once a B-52 out of Blytheville AFB, AR who’s crosswind gear wouldn’t straighten out. The crew flew it to Edwards via refueling, waited for morning and landed it on the lakebed whereupon it started turning in a circle :-). Same story, different flavor. They actually keep track of the number and value of airplanes saved by that lakebed. But I digress from a tragic accident.

      • This could be a good use case for electric motors driven by some sort of on board generator. The motors are smaller, lighter, scalable, and almost trivially easy to control vs. conventional engines. In this case, you might have the size and payload to support your [hybrid?] power system, especially if your mission requirements (e,g, carrier to shore support) allow you to work with a limited maximum range.

  2. Here’s a comparison of the fatality rates per 100,000 flight hours, from high to low, for the V-22 Osprey, and other aircraft:

    Aircraft (Fatality Rate Per 100,000 flt hrs}
    V-22 Osprey (3.16)
    F-18 (1.95)
    F-22 (1.31)
    F-35 (1.07)
    F-16 (0.94)
    CH-46 Sea Knight (1999-2009) (0.54)
    CH-46 Sea Knight (2000-2019) (0.27)

    The V-22’s fatality rate is higher than that of other helicopters in its class, including the CH-46 Sea Knight. It is also higher than that of fixed-wing aircraft such as the F-16. This is likely due to the V-22’s unique combination of helicopter and fixed-wing capabilities, and mission.
    The fatality rates are averages so the actual fatality rate for any given aircraft can vary depending on a number of factors, such as the specific type of operations being conducted, the experience of the pilots, and the maintenance of the aircraft.

    Despite its higher fatality rate, the V-22 is categorized as a valuable asset for the U.S. military. In the long term, according to military media postings, the military is planning to upgrade the V-22 with new engines and avionics. These upgrades will improve the aircraft’s performance, range, and reliability. Is it a keeper?

    • I suppose you could say that the V-22 can carry more people on any given flight so when an accident happens, there’ll normally be more fatalities. Maybe a fairer way to analyze it is to just compare the accident rate per 100,000 hours.

    • …the figures you cite are only relevant if they give the fatality rates for the same period of operational deployment. The CH-46, for example, was nowhere near the fatality rate you cite at a similar period in its operational life (the late 1970s). Another example: NAVAIRSYSCOM cites that during fiscal years 2013 to 2017 the number of Super Hornet incidents rose from 45 to 94 per year. An F-14 boinked on short final due to a hydraulic failure at Calverton during its press unveiling way back when (1970). Neither of those programs were cancelled despite similar accident rates at similar periods in their deployment.

      • And the oldest super hornets were becoming nearly 20 years old at that point, too. Some were beginning middle aged. There are SO many variables in the analysis methodology here that even within the same weapon system it’s tough to compare apples to apples. Tell ya what … sounds like maybe you’re a Navy man, Alan. Stick your family into one of ’em on a regular basis and then tell us what you think. At least in the fighters there are yellow handles available; not so much to Osprey passengers.

      • The V-22 Osprey has a FATALITY rate of 3.16 per 100,000 flight hours. This is according to a statement by Marine aviation spokesman Maj. Jorge Hernandez in 2022. He compared the fatality rate to other aircraft, and the V-22 came out lower than the Harrier, Super Hornet, F-35B, and CH-53E Super Stallion. However, it is important to note that the fatality rate can vary depending on a number of factors, such as the specific type of operations being conducted, the experience of the pilots, and the maintenance of the aircraft.

      • Just a reminder that GA does not have a practical and reliable method of capturing Hours Flown. It is perhaps the biggest problem with safety reporting in GA. We have nothing more than estimates or outright guesses on which to base our “per hour flown” metrics. Consequently to be honest none of the figures expressed as “per hour” are proven valid for GA – and must be regarded as questionable at best – and potentially so wildly inaccurate as to be invalid. The use of such figures as data invalidates any conclusions drawn. It’s unfortunate but true. Until we can reliably quantify reality, we’re just playing around and may be doing the cause of safety a disservice. Maybe not but maybe. Not the kind of situation I want when I’m thinking safety.

  3. I guess the question then is: at what point do they shutter this program? What is the acceptable cost of deaths vs the value of the asset? And knowing that, one can extrapolate how many more years of service should remain. It sounds cold but society does this calculation all the time I agree with Larry S and say we’ve hit this point already

  4. As I understand it, the V22 accident rate of 3.16/100,000 flight hours is very similar to other aircraft of it’s size and capability including the CH46 (contrary to what Raf Sierra says above), CH53 and other A/C that I can’t quite remember. I am stating this from memory and will have to go back and find the article which was by a reputable source (I don’t read garbage).

    If this is true, then we can understand why it is still in use and hasn’t been completely removed from service.

    Ps. I am a big fan of Bell Helicopter, I am a commercial helicopter pilot and I have flown as a “member of the press” in the cockpit jump seat of MV-22 several times over a single two day period. They are incredible machines although I agree that they are very, very complicated.

    • “They are incredible machines although I agree that they are very, very complicated.”

      They are impressive to see flying. But given their drawbacks and operational difficulties, they really should be retired.

    • “As I understand it, the V22 accident rate of 3.16/100,000 flight hours…”

      The V-22 Osprey has a FATALITY rate of 3.16 per 100,000 flight hours. NOT ACCIDENT RATE.

  5. The CV-22 is an incredibly complex machine especially with the engines rotating into various positions depending on flight mode. Also, there is also a fairly complex transmission and coupling mechanism between the engines which allows both props to continue rotating in the case one of the engines fails.

    The Navy is in the process of replacing the reliable C-2 Greyhound in the carrier onboard delivery mission (COD). The COD carries supplies and people from land bases in support of the carriers. They often carry a dozen or more people on these missions including VIPs, crew members, media people, etc. If a tragedy occurs in one of these missions there will certainly be questions raised about the safety and reliability of these aircraft.

  6. Operationally, the V-22 is so noisy as it approaches its’ target, the bad guys get at least a 5 minute warning. I’ve heard them coming when they were still at 8500′ still 3 miles away.

    • I agree – the noise signature of the V-22 is an impediment to secure operations. I was a Special Forces officer in the Army in combat and while speed can be important, stealth is especially important for the type of operations that we did using air insertion and extraction. I think that Bell developed a helicopter system using two counter-rotating rotors which overcomes the inherent problem with helicopters that the V-22 was designed to overcome – maximum speed. Standard helicopter design has a maximum speed limitation due to the difference in lift of the receding and advancing rotor blades which counter-rotating blades can overcome. I do not know the noise situation of helicopters with counter-rotating blade design. The V-22 has a very high maintenance to flight hour ratio as well (helicopters in general have a fairly high maintenance to flight hour ratio, but I suspect not as high as the V-22).

      • MMH/FH is another consideration … good point, chris. In the late 60’s — after only a 10 year service life — the supersonic B-58 Hustler was retired because the MMH/FH and the MTBF were SO high plus the mission requirements changed.

        • MTBF = MFHBUM (Mean Flying Hours Between Unscheduled Maintenance) MMH/FH = Maintenance Man Hours per Flying Hour. Both were very high for the B-58 AND the airplane was way ahead of its time, too. It was tough to find people qualified to become maintainers on the thing. The “OR” rate is also important. How many of the fleet are operationally ready at any given point in time. Bean counters love that sort of thing and often control the purse strings of a program. Seems to me there was a miitary helicopter with a known defect and failure mode who’s manufacturer was successfully sued. That’s what oughta happen to the V-22.

  7. Anyone still pushing for the existence of this calamity of engineering should be prosecuted for manslaughter after the next crash. To call them accidents is a misnomer.

    • An accident “looking for a place to happen?”

      Some vehicles are just more prone to accidents than other vehicles.

  8. In genetics, intentional hybridization is a risky procedure whose history is littered with more failures than successes, for both the individual and the species. For every mule or liger, there are far more crosses that are non-viable, immediately or over generations. Trying to create a hybrid of the airplane and the helicopter has resulted in less-than-successful crossbreeds for years, starting with the auto-giro. (Although 007’s “Little Nellie” was pretty cool, if fictional.)

    Just because some people might want a writer with the brilliance of a Bertorelli in a more attractive package, it doesn’t mean he should start dating Taylor Swift. You’re far more likely to end up with an illiterate dolt who sounds like Steve Urkel …

    • Aviation is based on engineering not genetics, and while autogyros may not be commonplace, they are not exactly “less-than-successful”.

      And the Wallis autogyro may not have existed beyond the prototype stage, but only its weaponry was fictional in its “Little Nellie” guise. Its flying was real.

      • There is definitely a parallel between animal breeding and the designing of complex mechanisms: both genetic engineers and aeromechanical engineers are dealing with complex mechanisms in environments that are not fully understood. The greater the number of factors involved, the less likely that all the environments the product will encounter can be predicted.

        I live only a few miles from Igor Bensen’s shop (long gone under RDU 5L/23R) and knew him. He stayed afloat, which is a pretty high bar for a product where the purchaser has to participate in the manufacturing, as Mr. VanGrunven has recently discovered. I probably should have left out the “-than-” for those who have such a low value for “success”. On the plus side, that allows me to tout myself as a “successful writer”; I’ve never lost money on anything I’ve written. 🙂

  9. The problem I have with the Osprey is that if you have any problem with either engine you are screwed. I don’t think they have any single engine capability. I don’t think they have an autorotate capability. I think the proponents of tilt-rotor designs are selling the military a pipe dream. The tilt-rotor design is extremely unforgiving of engine problems. A birdstrike in a conventional helo or plane is a kiss of death. In the Osprey, in-flight damage to a prop blade creating an imbalance will cause the aircraft to start dissembling itself.

    On the fatalities data, did the info provided the very first attempt at moving the Osprey Program forward was so bad that they thought the program was a bust. Then a bunch of years later, they revived the program. They should have let the program die way back then.

    • “I don’t think they have any single engine capability.”

      Why opine without facts? A dead simple Google search confirms that the Osprey has an interconnecting driveshaft and single engine capability.

      ” I don’t think they have an autorotate capability.”

      They do, but it’s a fast drop. Gliding is a better option.

      “In the Osprey, in-flight damage to a prop blade creating an imbalance will cause the aircraft to start dissembling itself.”

      How would a conventional helo react to a blade being damaged? At least the Osprey could still glide.

      • To a helicopter pilot, “autorotation capability” requires arriving at the earth with enough energy in the rotor system to arrest the accumulated vertical decent rate. I don’t think an Osprey with two dead engines could build up enough energy to do so. With enough forward speed it might shallow the crater.

  10. Way back, when the Osprey was still under development, an engineer friend of mine worked for a competing company designing a similar model. The main difference was that instead of rotating the engines on a fixed wing, they were using fixed engines with the whole wing rotating for vertical lift. That allowed a simple driveshaft mechanism between the engines that eliminated any issues of engine failure or a problem with the rotational mechanism on each engine pod. Seemed like a much simpler and more reliable design to me. Unfortunately, his company did not have the political “pull” that Bell did with the military decision makers, so theirs did not make the cut. It would have been interesting to see if it would have come out better. Guess we will never know.

  11. Has anyone on this forum actually flown an Osprey?

    Me either. The closest I’ve come, was when a ATP/CFII friend and military consultant got me an hour one Saturday in the Osprey simulator down at MCAS New River. It wasn’t full-motion, but did simulate the experience with a huge DC motor under the floorboards that rotated a heavy weight in sync with the rotors. My feet were numb by the end of hour. Otherwise, it was a six-screen hi-res visual with force-feedback on the controls.

    It was fairly easy to fly, admittedly in novice mode with no wind, weather, or trim issues. I must have made a dozen circuits of the airfield, most to full stop. Basically, it’s a heavy but well-mannered beast.

    The ONLY problem I had was with hovering. I’ve had a helicopter for years, so I was not expecting to do so poorly in the “hover-to-landing” phase. There’s a MIL-STD throttle grip with a couple of buttons/switches. One of them was a slim little thumb lever that controlled the angle of the engines/rotors. The stick was completely MIL-STD.

    After the third pooched touchdown, I realized that the control in my left hand was working backwards. In a helicopter, if you are hovering and want to ascend, you pull up on the collective. The Osprey’s control was a power-lever that was perfectly natural for a fixed-wing pilot, but activated exactly the wrong muscles for a chopper pilot.

    I asked how they managed to train helicopter pilots to fly the Osprey, and he said, “We don’t.” So however much the Osprey might resemble a helicopter with high speed capability, it ain’t. It’s a plane with a hovering feature but no auto-rotation capability.

    So I’m with Larry S.: you’ll never find me in one that leaves the ground.

  12. As an 82 year-old who has been a GA pilot for almost 57 years, I have had more than just a casual interest in aviation developments and innovations. I have no engineering background, so I just kind of rely on observation and instinct as I evaluate various projects that propose to advance the practicality and versatility of aircraft designs. A criterion that I sometimes use to evaluate a new design goes something like this: If I had the opportunity to invest in this particular design, would I feel confident in doing so?

    I have seen so many failures, so many dead-ends, so many flash-in-the-pan ideas and designs over the years (Flying cars, anyone? Really? Jim Bede maybe? Oh my!) that those kinds of investments do not seem to be a good idea.

    From the git-go, I never thought that the Osprey was a good idea. I never would have invested in it (not that I could have, of course). I still think that it’s not a good idea. Let it lie with the Colonial Skimmer, the BD-5, the Aerocar, the Convair XFY-1 Pogo, the Windeker Eagle, Terrafugia and the hundreds of other projects that often have advanced the cause of aviation innovation but have not survived the intense scrutiny of enduring practicality.

    • Another salient point, Bill, along with mine asking whether you’d allow your family to routinely fly in this thing would be another. Reliability is a serious issue with a complex machine with a high critical parts and systems count. The idea of replacing the C-2 COD with a V-22 is INSANE! Anyone familiar with the C-2 knows how beat up that machine is yet it soldiers on. Why … because it’s a simple machine well suited to the mission. Beating up a V-22 used as a COD is never going to work long term. It’s a complex machine needing lots of special maintenance. Even used in the special ops mission, its noise footprint negates much of its advantage as someone pointed out. Keep some for that mission and park the rest for parts.

      I wonder if all the nutty designs for eVTOLs and hybrids won’t ultimately start proving themselves unreliable or dangerous when they’re finally allowed to enter service and exposed to the rigors of day-to-day abuse? The ongoing issues with the V-22 may well be the proverbial canary in that coal mine?

  13. Why the format of these comments vary from normal to narrow, some are down to only a few LETTERS wide! Very difficult to read even though most comments are worthwhile reading.

    • The comments section is a fixed-width, so when you thread a comment (successive replies), the left side gets indented but the right size still spans to the same position. Thus, the width of the response gets smaller and smaller.

    • Bouncing the font size down a notch and then relocating your spot (and squinting) is a definite kludge, but beats reading two letters at a time.

      Don’t their developers have any sense of minimum or maximum values for such things as text width?