Aug 7th, 2017

V-22 Osprey Crash in Australia

Posted in Aviation News

A V-22 Osprey crashed on Saturday in Shoalwater Bay in the Queensland state, which is located on the eastern coast of Australia.  The aircraft was participating in Talisman Sabre joint military exercise.  This event occurs every two years and involves more than 200 aircraft.  Joint exercises are military practice missions conducted between allied military forces.  These exercises take place during peacetime in order to build capability and esprit de corps.  They have been a staple of US military operations since World War II when the United States fought alongside Great Britain and others.

V-22 Crashes in the Queensland state of Australia

As of this writing it appears that 23 of the 26 Marines on board have been rescued and three are missing and presumed dead. For more information on the accident see this New York Post article:

The V-22 landing as a helicopter

The focus on this blog is what exactly a V-22 is and what is designed to do.  I will also briefly mention its safety record.

Crash remains of US aircraft during failed Iranian Hostage Rescue Attempt

In a nutshell, the V-22 is part helicopter, part airplane.  It is the closest thing the flying world has to a transformer.  The V-22 was first proposed in 1983, but it origins go back to Jimmy Carter’s failed military attempt to rescue the Iranian hostages in a night time raid in 1980.  The failure of the helicopters in this raid, highlighted the need for an aircraft that could fly long range and low, but faster than a traditional helicopter.

The V-22’s blades tilt transforming it from a helicopter to a turbo prop airplane

The V-22 was developed by Bell Helicopter working in conjunction with Boeing’s helicopter unit.  Due to its complexity, the aircraft took decades to develop.  It first flew in 1989, but was finally placed in service in 2007, twenty four years after the design contact was awarded.

The advanced design of the V-22 seen at night

In fairness to the V-22’s developers, this is a very complex aircraft.  I remember as a cadet at the Air Force Academy in 1980 hearing about a new cargo plane we were going to develop.  It was to be called the C-17.  The C-17 finally entered service in 1995, years after I first heard about it.

The C-17, also long in development

The V-22 is designed to take off like a helicopter, fly like a turbo prop airplane and then land as a helicopter.  Ideally this would allow troops to be transported speedily across long range, yet be agile enough to land on terrain and buildings only suitable for a conventional helicopter.  Hearkening back to its origins in the failed Iranian rescue, the US must sometimes fly long range to get individuals out of tight quarters.

The V-22 ferries Marines from a carrier

The V-22’s development costs and safety record has been widely criticized.  Reportedly then Secretary of Defense, Dick Cheney tried to cancel the program in the first George Bush’s presidency due to cost overruns.  During the testing phase the aircraft crashed on four occasions.  Since it went into service there have been five crashes, killing 9 crewmembers.  For more information on the safety record see this Fortune magazine article:

The V-22 has the capability to drop troops worldwide

Again, in fairness to the V-22’s developers, when humans are developing a brand new technology, there are frequent failures.  Early in NASA’s space program the United States suffered many rocket crashes.  Fortunately, most of them were un-manned.

Early NASA rocket explosion

This latest accident reportedly has the military temporarily suspended flight operations of the Osprey.  This is a standard procedure in order to learn the appropriate lessons before returning the craft to flight.  Military flight operations are inherently more dangerous than civilian operations.  This is due to the conditions under which the aircraft are flown and the sometimes advanced technology that is used.  Let is not forget that these are young human beings who are risking their lives flying in defense of the United States and her allies.