Marine Investigators Wait for Osprey Black Box Data
By Staff Sgt. Kathleen T. Rhem, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 21, 2000 Marine investigators looking into the April 8 crash of an MV-22 Osprey in Arizona that killed 19 Marines have ruled out a problem with the aircraft's transition from plane to helicopter mode and are now waiting for data from the craft's "black box."
"We are expecting information from the [crash-survivable memory unit] data soon," Lt. Gen. Fred McCorkle said April 20 in a Pentagon briefing. "I can tell you that there is information on the flight data recorder."
McCorkle, assistant chief of staff for Marine Corps aviation, said the unit is intact and has been sent to Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., for study. He said experts didn't know how long it would be before they obtain meaningful information because of the way the data recorder stores information. The data has to be translated from electronic signals.
The Osprey is a new ship that can fly like a plane and hover like a helicopter by rotating engine nacelles on its wings. The Marines have purchased five so far and plan to get more than 300 eventually to replace their aging fleet of conventional helicopters.
The nacelles were in full helicopter mode when the aircraft crashed, so investigators have ruled out nacelle rotation and flight transition as a cause of the crash. "I can tell you that 100 percent," McCorkle said.
He said investigators have determined the aircraft's propellers were turning, its driveshaft was intact and operating normally, and its engines were running above an idle when it crashed.
The Marines are still investigating the possibilities of mechanical problems, maintenance shortcomings and human error. McCorkle said none could be ruled out yet.
The "operational pause" in all Osprey flights called by Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James L. Jones should end soon, McCorkle said. He explained that flights would restart in phases: Crews are already doing ground taxis. The next step will be for test pilots to take the planes up. Then, regular Marine aircrews will fly them without passengers. The final step back to full operation would be flights with passengers.
Jones has indicated he plans to be on the first such flight to demonstrate his confidence in the Ospreys. "He's also given the OK for me, if he doesn't have me busy doing some other things," McCorkle said. "I plan on being on the same airplane with him."