No Fire Before Osprey Crash, Recovery Efforts Continue
By Staff Sgt. Kathleen T. Rhem, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 12, 2000 The Marines have sent a colonel to Arizona from Marine Corps Headquarters here to head the service's investigation into the deadly April 8 crash of an MV-22 Osprey.
The officer, Col. Dennis Bartels, is a CH-46 pilot who has investigated several aviation accidents in the past.
"I don't think that we could find anybody more experienced to head up the investigation," Marine Lt. Gen. Fred McCorkle, the Corps' deputy chief of staff for aviation, said April 11 in a Pentagon briefing.
All 19 Marines aboard the Osprey died when the aircraft crashed next to a runway at Marana Northwest Regional Airport, about 25 miles northwest of Tucson, Ariz. Fourteen of the dead Marines were stationed at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., one at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., and four at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va.
Military pathologists began removing the Marines' remains from the wreckage of the tilt-wing aircraft early April 11. McCorkle said investigators will wait for that to be completed before recovering the aircraft's flight data recorder. "We did not want to disturb the bodies in order to get to the flight data recorder," he said.
The general was hopeful the "black box" would provide the necessary information to determine the cause of the crash. He explained the Osprey's flight data recorders are state- of-the-art and continuously record 227 different parameters, including airspeed, altitude, heading and engine performance data. "Any potential system malfunction should be indicated on there," he said.
The Osprey flies like a plane; its two swiveling wing-tip engines and rotors allow it to lift and land like a helicopter. McCorkle confirmed the aircraft was fully in helicopter mode when it crashed, not in the transition phase as had previously been reported. He said the crew chief of another Osprey landing nearby confirmed the transition had been completed. He also said the Osprey hit the ground before bursting into flames.
"There is no indication whatsoever that there was any fire before the aircraft impacted the ground," he said.
McCorkle said the two pilots involved were "very experienced," with each having nearly 100 hours' flying time in MV-22s and more than 100 hours in simulators. Between them, they also had nearly 500 hours' flight training with night-vision goggles, which they were wearing at the time of the crash.
He said the aircraft that crashed was received in January and had been flown more than 135 hours since. The Marine Corps has received five aircraft so far and is scheduled to receive six more in 2000 and a total of 360 over the next several years.
McCorkle was adamant the crash won't derail the Marines' Osprey program. "I think the nation absolutely needs the MV-22," he said. "I've personally flown this aircraft ... and consider it to be the best aircraft that I've ever been in."
He said the Osprey is better equipped to safely move Marines because it's "twice as fast, goes four times as far, and it'll carry twice as much as any of our other helicopters."