MV-22 Osprey Flight Testing Slated to Resume
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Mar. 22, 2002 Defense officials plan to resume flight-testing the MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft at the end of April, according to the department's acquisition chief.
But Peter Aldridge, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, qualified DoD's approach to reporters today at a Pentagon roundtable discussion: He won't approve the resumption of flight testing until he's satisfied the test plan meets all the necessary criteria and all the recommendations that study panels made after two Osprey crashes that killed 23 service members.
After the second crash, in April 2000, defense officials canceled the Osprey flight-testing program and limited production to "the minimum sustaining level," Aldridge said. Marine officials also relieved the commander of the Osprey squadron at New River Marine Corps Air Station, N.C., following allegations he ordered personnel to falsify maintenance records.
"The Navy secretary and I will have a final 'return-to- flight' review before it actually starts flight testing," Aldridge said. The test program will be "event-driven," not schedule-driven, he stressed -- if some test points need to be repeated, they'll be repeated.
If we see some problems occurring early in the flight test program, we may not continue it," he said. "We could stop and head off in another direction."
Aldridge said Marine Commandant Gen. Jim Jones insisted on having alternative aircraft in case the Osprey runs into a problem. Defense officials are looking at several, including an upgraded versions of the CH-53 and UH-60 helicopters.
The commandant is "serious about reviewing alternatives," Aldridge stressed. "We all hope the V-22 is going to be successful, but in case it is not, he has to have something in place to replace their aging helicopters."