Osprey to Enter Two-Year Flight Test Program
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 21, 2001 The troubled V-22 Osprey aircraft will go through a two-year flight test program, said Pete Aldridge, defense undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics.
"I've had some serious doubts about the safety, reliability and operational suitability of the V-22," Aldridge said during a Pentagon press conference Dec. 21. "I personally still have some doubts, but the only way to prove the case is to put the airplane back into flight test, and we're going to do that."
Marine Corps plans to buy 360 and Navy and Air Force plans to buy 50 each of the tilt-rotor aircraft were put on hold following two crashes that killed 23 Marines in April and December 2000.
Several "blue ribbon" groups that looked into the crashes and the program have recommended a number of changes.
The new flight test program will start in April 2002. It will be a comprehensive, two-year look at the aircraft. The tests will further explore the occurrence called vortex ring state, deemed responsible for the first crash of a V- 22 in Arizona that killed 19 Marines.
Aldridge said the tests also must explore shipboard compatibility. For example, he noted the need to look at what happens when one rotor is over the flight deck and the other is over the side of the ship, conditions which could include take-off, landing or craft on deck.
He wants the test to also explore low-speed hover conditions, such as landing when the props blow up dust, debris, snow and other things. The testing will also include combat maneuverability and formation flying, including refueling conditions.
Aldridge said he and Navy Secretary Gordon England would assess the testing programs at various posts along the way. He said the flight-test hurdles would be event-driven rather than schedule-driven. Tests will not move to new areas until engineers fully understand the results of earlier testing.
"We'll not be driven by trying to accomplish something in a certain period of time," he said.
DoD has slowed down production of the V-22 to the minimum sustaining level. This will allow changes to be made to production aircraft. Aircraft already built will be retrofitted.