USAF Looks To Reinstate CV-22 Ops, But Only When Safety Is Assured

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Officials with the U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command remain cautious but are eager to relaunch operations of the CV-22 Osprey tiltrotor. Their concern focuses on the Nov. 29 Osprey crash off the coast of Japan in which eight airmen were killed.

At a press roundtable discussion yesterday (Feb. 13), Lt. General Tony Bauernfeind, who heads up the Special Forces Operation Command, told reporters, “There is a strong desire to return to fly because that is a capability we want to have, but we want to be able to return to fly with as much knowledge as we possibly can [have] so that we can ensure that we are safely taking care of our crews as it goes forward.”

To date, evidence suggests mechanical failure, perhaps related to what the military.com website described as “a mysterious mechanical issue called hard clutch engagement that has been seen in the V-22 for more than a decade.” Since the accident, all Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy Ospreys have been grounded. Multiple investigations are ongoing.

During the press event, Bauernfeind assured reporters, “I can tell you right now, nothing is more important to me than the safety of our air commandos. And when the time is right, when we make the decision to return to fly, it will be with me having the full confidence not only in our training, but our crews, as well as the platform and the new mitigation measures we have in place.”

Mark Phelps
Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

15 COMMENTS

  1. “I can tell you right now, nothing is more important to me than the safety of our air commandos.”

    Except the success of the mission.

  2. No expertise here about Osprey clutch engineering, just wondering if a new pilot trainee might resemble my wife learning to operate the clutch on a 1960 VW beetle. No one has ever unsuspectedly got in a rental plane that experienced a hard landing previously from someone else, then was left to deal with the consequences.

  3. “a mysterious mechanical issue”

    Does not belong in a certified aircraft, keep it grounded until no longer mysterious.

    • AFAIK, military aircraft don’t need to be certified (by civilian authorities). Neither do the pilots, for that matter 🙂

      • As Bob S implied, the military has certification authority over its aircraft, and his comment applies to them as much as it does to civilian aircraft.

  4. The success of the mission is what it is all about. Aways has been. And it will be done as safely as possible. But sacrifice at some level has always been and is understood. That’s what separates the military soldier from the rest of us.

    • Agreed, but sacrifice shouldn’t come due to equipment failure. Figure out the problem first. They can always fly if there is some kind of emergency.

  5. Safety can never be “assured,” particularly in the case of the V-22. The program has been a disaster from the beginning. The only question now is, will the next crash, which is sure to come, finally do it in?

    • It’s ok. Bell claims to have solved all of the problems in the V-22, and the V-280 is nothing at all like the V-22…

  6. I read a book years ago about the rocky development of the Osprey. It was snakebit from the beginning. It may offer some useful features — when it works. But, it’s killed too many men. Time to find a less-lethal mode of transportation.

    • May be You’re right, Mr. Larry Barr. The question is: how long does it take until that find? Until them what mode of transportation will be used?

      • Where is Tony Stark (aka Ironman) when you really need him? 😉

        Seriously though, you begin to see why the military is so interested in eVTOL projects. No mechanical clutches, no long, twisty drive shafts, etc. Just multiple electric motors controlled electronically. Yeah, I know, there’s the battery thing. But a hybrid power system might work.

        • In theory, one could still power an eVTOL with conventional gas turbines connected directly to a generator. But you’d still have the problem of having to manage the contingency of a motor failing (either the motor itself, or the power to the motor).

        • Perfect about eVTOLs! Hybrid power system and (some) backup batteries would really provide sufficient power safety. Maybe, to support envelope (range included through efficiency) a less obsolete rotor blade technology could be added. Morphing rotor blade concept has been proposed since couple of years ago.

  7. The safety issue will be solved when Lt. General Tony Bauernfeind is in the lead aircraft on every mission.

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