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Briefing on V-22 Accident by Maj. Gen. Berndt

Presenter: Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Martin R. Berndt
April 05, 2001

Thursday, April 5, 2001 - 2:37 p.m. EDT

(Special briefing on the V-22 Osprey by Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Martin R. Berndt, commanding general, II Marine Expeditionary Force. Also participating Marine Corps Lt. Col. Bill Wainwright, executive officer, Marine Aircraft Group 26)

Maj. Gibbons: Good afternoon. Before we get started I have a couple of administrative remarks. First of all, copies of the redacted JAG [Judge Advocate General] Manual investigation and the briefer's statement will be available immediately following the brief, if you see Staff Sergeant Milks in the back, there.

Second, I would like to point out that the purpose of this brief is limited to providing you information about the JAG Manual investigation. Although there are many things in the news, that is what the purpose of this brief is for. We will talk about the brief, the JAG Manual investigation, and then the steps the Marine corps is taking as a result of that investigation.

With that said, ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to introduce General Berndt.

Gen. Berndt: Good afternoon. I am Major General Martin Berndt. I am the commanding general of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force, which is headquartered at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, and I have the privilege of commanding roughly 43,000 Marines that serve in the operational, war-fighting unit that we call "Second MEF."

I am here to provide you with the results of a Judge Advocate General Manual -- JAG -- investigation into the cause of the December 11th, 2000, MV-22 Osprey accident near Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina.

First and foremost, I'd like to say that our thoughts and prayers remain with the families of our four fallen Marines. Our Corps mourns the loss of Lieutenant Colonel Keith Sweaney, Lieutenant Colonel Mike Murphy, Staff Sergeant Avely Runnels, and Sergeant Jason Buyck. Their contributions to our country and our Corps cannot be overstated. The Marine Corps has experienced a great loss, and my sincere condolences go out to their families.

We've been working closely with the families since the mishap. Earlier today we provided them with the information that we're going to give you after the brief in the form of the investigation. We will continue to offer our complete support and to provide them with all available information.

Now, a JAG investigation is conducted to determine the cause of a mishap. We also use it to identify lapses or shortcomings in processes and procedures; to direct corrective actions; and to adjudicate claims against the government. Finally, it can serve as the basis of administrative or legal actions.

We will provide copies, as was mentioned, at the completion of this brief.

The JAG investigation should not be confused with the Aircraft Mishap Board investigation that was conducted on the same accident. The Aircraft Mishap Board investigation, which focuses specifically on aviation safety and accident prevention, is in the review process.

The Department of Defense Inspector General's investigation, and the Secretary of Defense's V-22 Review Panel, also known as the Blue Ribbon Panel, are separate efforts that are currently underway.

This accident has been thoroughly investigated. The mishap resulted from a hydraulic system failure compounded by a computer software anomaly. The aircrew reacted immediately and correctly to the in-flight emergency, as they were trained to do. We consider them to be without fault in this tragedy.

The JAG investigation was initiated by the commanding officer of Marine Aircraft Group 26, the parent organization of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Training Squadron 204, to which the mishap aircraft was assigned. The investigating officer was selected from outside the immediate chain of command.

The findings are based on information from interviews, records, the crash survivable memory unit, air traffic controllers; the Vibration, Structural, Life and Engineering Diagnostics recording device, and engineering investigations. All findings have been thoroughly reviewed by the chain of command.

Failures and mishaps are seldom caused by a single factor. This one was no exception. It was caused by a series of events that, the combination of which proved fatal. I'd like now to walk you through those events. And when I complete the presentation I'll take your questions.

[Slides used in this briefing are on the Web at http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Apr2001/g010405-D-6570C.html ]

On December 11th of last year four Marines perished when an MV- 22B Osprey callsign Crossbow 08 assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Training Squadron 204 crashed while on approach to Marine Corps Air Station New River. The aircraft took off from New River at 5:47 p.m. local to conduct a night vision-aided training mission. At 7:17 p.m., after completing its third of four planned radar approaches into the air station at New River, Crossbow 08 made a left-hand turn heading north, accelerated to 180 knots, climbed to 1,600 feet, and converted to the airplane mode. That is, the nacelles, which are these large cowlings on the end of the wing, rotated forward.

During this portion of the flight Crossbow 08 was in contact with air traffic controllers at Marine Corps Air Station New River. The controllers directed the aircraft to turn to magnetic headings of 280 degrees, 250 degrees, 230 degrees, and finally 200 degrees, or south-southwest. Crossbow 08 acknowledged and executed all of these heading changes. The aircrew used the flight director panel, which can be likened to a programmed autopilot, to complete these turns. During this series of left-hand turns the aircraft's air speed was reduced to 160 knots on the flight director panel, and the nacelles began to transition to the helicopter mode. This transition occurs automatically when the air speed is reduced below 160 knots to compensate for the lift loss from the reduced airflow over the V-22's fixed wing.

At 7:23:40 p.m. shortly after the nacelles began to transition from the airplane mode, a main hydraulic line ruptured that feeds the aircraft's left squash plate actuators.

When the flight control computers sensed the problem, they stopped the rotation of the nacelles. I'll show you a more detailed picture of the hydraulic system in just a moment.

When the hydraulic line ruptured, the primary flight control system, or PFCS, reset button illuminated, in accordance with published procedures, the aircrew pressed the reset button. This action started a chain of unpredicted and uncontrollable events that caused accelerating and decelerating actions of the aircraft until it entered a stalled condition and departed controlled flight.

At 7:24:10, just 30 second after the failure of hydraulic system number one, Crossbow-08 crashed in a marshy area seven miles north of the airfield in a nose-down attitude.

I'll now cover the details of what caused the mishap.

There are three hydraulic systems that operate the prop rotors on the V-22: systems number one, number two and number three. All three systems provide hydraulic pressure to both nacelles on the wingtips. One of the titanium hydraulic lines in the number one system in the left nacelle ruptured due to chafing caused by a wire bundle. The wire bundle did not rub completely through the tubing, but the depth of the chafing was enough to cause a rupture under pressure. This resulted in a total loss of hydraulic fluid in the number one system in a matter of seconds.

Now this particular hydraulic line has walls that are 22/1000ths of an inch thick. The rupture was 22/100ths of an inch long. This line contributes hydraulic pressure to power the squash plate actuators in the left nacelle. These actuators supply mechanical power to the linkage that controls the pitch of the blades on the prop rotor.

The design of the hydraulic system provides a primary and back-up capability.

These systems share hydraulic lines at certain points. Hydraulic system number one and number three share the line where the rupture occurred. Sensing a loss of fluid, an isolation valve stopped the flow of hydraulic fluid from the number three system to the ruptured line. By this time, the number one hydraulic system had failed. The number three hydraulic system had been isolated and no longer provided pressure to the left swashplate actuators. As a result, the left swashplate actuators were powered only by the number two hydraulic system, while the right swashplate actuators were powered both by the number two and the number three systems. This caused an uneven distribution of hydraulic power to the left and right swashplate actuators. This hydraulic failure alone would not normally have caused an aircraft mishap.

The hydraulic failure in the left nacelle resulted in a series of rapidly cascading warning indicators to the pilots. Chief among these were a dual-hydraulic failure and a critical swashplate fault, combined with illumination of the primary flight control system warning light and a warning tone. The published procedure for responding to such a failure is to press the primary flight control system reset button. When the primary flight control system reset button was pressed, a software anomaly caused significant pitch and thrust changes in both prop rotors. Because of the dual hydraulic failure on the left side, the prop rotors were unable to respond at the same rate. This resulted in uncommanded aircraft pitch, roll and yaw motions, which eventually stalled the aircraft.

During the last 20 seconds of the flight, the primary flight control reset logic was energized as many as eight to 10 times. This, coupled with the dual hydraulic failure, caused large prop rotor changes. These changes resulted in decreased airspeed and altitude and a left yaw. The crew pressed the reset button in their attempt to reset the system and maintain control during the emergency.

It is the conclusion of the investigation that the cause of this accident is directly attributed to two primary factors: one, a rupture in the number one hydraulic line, which was caused by chafing; and two, an anomaly in the control logic in the computer software control laws which caused rapid and significant changes to prop rotor pitch each time the primary flight control system reset logic was energized. These findings raise a number of important questions that officials in various agencies, to include the Department of Defense IG and the independent panel reviewing the V-22 program, are looking at very closely.

The first question pertains to the adequacy of testing on the flight control system and the associated software. As I mentioned earlier, the investigation revealed an anomaly in the computer software that governs control of the prop rotors. This anomaly rendered the emergency procedures outlined in the Naval Air Training and Operations Procedures Standardization, or NATOPS, flight manual ineffective. As a result, this investigation recommends, and Headquarters United States Marine Corps concurs, that Naval Air Systems Command, NAVAIR, conduct a complete and comprehensive review of the entire vehicle management system, the computer software, to identify design deficiencies that may exist in any logic path that could adversely affect aircraft controlability.

The second question pertains to the placement of the V-22 hydraulic lines and wire bundles within the nacelles. The investigation cites a number of reports dating back to June of 1999 which describe chafing of hydraulic lines by wire bundles within the nacelles of the V-22. During inspection of the squadron's other MV-22 aircraft subsequent to the accident various degrees of chafing were identified on all eight squadron aircraft. As a result, the investigation recommends, and Headquarters Marine Corps concurs, that Naval Air Systems Command and Bell-Boeing conduct a comprehensive review of hydraulic line clearances and wire bundle placements on the V-22.

The investigation also recommends, and Headquarters Marine Corps concurs, that NAVAIR and Bell Boeing investigate the possibility of redesigning the hydraulic system to prevent dual system failures like that which occurred in this mishap.

The investigation also recommends a review, verification and update of all emergency procedures as written in the V-22 NATOPS manual. Headquarters Marine Corps concurs.

In addition to the causes of the mishap, this investigation has revealed some individual and squadron practices that were not in compliance with established regulations and operational risk- management standards. While not related to the cause of the accident, they are issues of concern and will be addressed by the Marine Corps.

For example, there were changes made to the flight schedule and to the aircraft design. While these changes were verbally authorized by the commanding officer, they were not documented in accordance with regulations. At the controls of the aircraft were two of our most experienced pilots. Lieutenant Colonel Murphy was the pilot in command, and Lieutenant Colonel Sweeney was the copilot. Sweeney had more than 4,000 flight hours in helicopter, fixed wing and tiltrotors. And Mike Murphy had more than 2,900 hours in helicopters, fixed wing and tiltrotors. Both officers were designated tiltrotor aircraft commanders and were seasoned flight leaders, instructors and our most experienced Osprey pilots.

Although neither aircrew currency or time of day were factors in the mishap, Lieutenant Colonel Sweeney's night currency had technically lapsed. To be current, he needed to have flown one flight within the previous 15 days. The mishap flight was originally scheduled as a day flight and would have met this requirement. However, the mission was delayed, and Lieutenant Colonel Sweeney's flight transitioned to a night event.

The crew performed the emergency procedures as prescribed and published for this type of situation, but there is no documentation that Lieutenant Colonel Sweeney and Murphy had completed their required monthly emergency procedures examination. Again, I want to reemphasize that this investigation found that aircrew error did not cause the mishap. Flight regulations and operational risk management standards were developed to prevent human factor mishaps. This mishap was not the result of human factors. But based on this investigation, we will take necessary steps and actions to ensure compliance with all established regulations and operational risk-management standards.

Finally, the investigating officer noted six deficiencies on the mishap aircraft when it was delivered to the squadron from the factory in August 2000. These discrepancies were corrected prior to the first operational flight.

I want to make clear that none of these deficiencies was a factor in the cause of the accident. While we are, of course, concerned about the quality of aircraft we receive -- any equipment, for that matter -- is it not uncommon to note discrepancies as part of an aircraft's initial acceptance process.

The investigating officer made many recommendations as a result of his findings. While I have discussed only those that I think are most significant, each and every recommendation will be acted on.

You will note that among the concerns raised in this investigation are many issues presently being reviewed by the independent panel convened by the secretary of Defense to review the V-22 program or by the Department of Defense Inspector General. All information that will be provided to you has already been provided to both the independent panel and the DOD IG to assist them in their reviews.

This tragedy has affected all Marines and their families, as well as the local and regional community. I would be remiss in my duties if I did not recognize the outstanding response to this accident by local fire companies, the Forestry Service, and other military and civilian emergency response agencies in the eastern North Carolina area. Their contributions to our military mission are invaluable, and we know that they're always standing by at the ready.

Finally and most importantly, the families of our lost Marines are in our prayers and in our hearts every day. We will not forget those who have made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure our security and our freedom.

I'll take a few questions. Yes?

Q: General, could I ask a you a two-part question? Sir, you had talked about how the testing was one of the areas that you wanted to have looked at very closely, very specifically with regard to the software. I wanted to ask you whose testing are you referring to, whose testing are you referring there -- is it the corporate -- the industry testing, or is this NAVAIR testing, or a little bit of both?

And a second issue is, in looking at the possibility of redesigning the hydraulic system on the aircraft, are you -- or does headquarters Marine Corps suggest that it's possible the aircraft may be grounded until such time as that redesign or fix is put into place?

Gen. Berndt: One of the principal recommendations to come out of this investigation has to do with testing.

And as I mentioned during the formal remarks, we are very much interested in, and have in fact recommended that testing be conducted both on the hydraulic system itself, how it's designed, and on the computer software, this logic that tells the aircraft how to fly. The responsibility for doing that lies in many different places, but principally with Naval Air Systems Command and with Bell-Boeing.

Q: General.

Gen. Berndt: Yes.

Q: General, well actually, I wanted follow up here on the second question on the grounding issue. Are you going to fly these aircraft again before these issues have been addressed?

Gen. Berndt: This investigation focused on the 11 December accident that occurred, and since that time we have not flown the aircraft. We will fly the aircraft or not fly the aircraft depending on the results of both the blue ribbon panel that are looking at the V-22 program from soup to nuts and the DoD IG.

Yes.

Q: General, you mentioned that Lieutenant Colonel Sweeney's night currency had lapsed because he hadn't flown within 15 days. How -- when did he last fly in daytime, and when did he last fly at night before the accident?

Gen. Berndt: Colonel Sweeney has -- and I'll lead up to this, but Colonel Sweaney has 271 hours in the V-22 out of the total of 4,000 I mentioned to you. His last V-22 flight was 30 October. He has 299 hours -- 299.5 hours night-vision-device hours and 45 night-vision-device hours in the V-22. His last night flight in the V-22 was 12 July.

Yes.

Q: So he hadn't flown --

Q: Could I ask you a multiple question about the software. First of all, what does "software anomaly" mean exactly? Is that the same as a flaw in how the software was written, and in this case a fatal flaw?

Second question is who wrote the software? What company produced this software?

And thirdly, are they negligent?

Gen. Berndt: Well I won't answer the third part of your question obviously because that will be someone else to decide.

An anomaly in terms of this investigation means that something happened that was not expected to happen. And whether that's a fault of design or structure or composition, manufacture or installation, I don't know.

But we have clearly identified in this investigation, Headquarters Marine Corps has supported, and we will push that recommendation to examine the entire software system that supports this aircraft to make sure that it does what it's supposed to do, and much of that has been done.

Q: Who wrote it? Who wrote the software?

Gen. Berndt: I don't know.

Q: General?

Gen. Berndt: Yes.

Q: The point of operational testing is that you find out these things that you didn't know. Why wasn't this discovered during operational testing? And are we to come away from this believing that the operational testing was deficient?

Gen. Berndt: This aircraft belongs to a squadron that is part of the operational forces -- the operational forces which, as I said, I have the privilege of commanding. The mission of this squadron is to train aircrews, maintainers and suppliers to get this aircraft and the squadron ready to go to war. They were not testing the airplane. They were training on the airplane.

Q: But why wasn't it discovered during the operational testing?

Gen. Berndt: I can't answer that question.

Q: General, what's the limit to this --

Q: (Inaudible) -- it should have been discovered in developmental testing, right? -- that Boeing and Bell and the Navy were involved with. Is that not correct?

Gen. Berndt: What I'm saying here is that as a result of this investigation, which many people have been waiting anxiously for, including myself, we have identified something that needs to be corrected. Now, whether that existed six months ago, a year ago, 10 years ago, 15 years ago, in our view, at this point is unimportant. Relative to this investigation, we need to get to the bottom of it.

Q: But you're an operator, and it's important that this thing crashed five days after it was supposed to go into full-rate production. That raises a question about the integrity of the entire acquisition process.

Gen. Berndt: I'm not prepared to address the integrity of the system, just the fact that we have identified something that needs to be fixed, made the recommendation that the right people that have the skills, the abilities and the wherewithal to do it get it fixed.

Q: A flight-critical safety issue that needs to be corrected, is that accurate?

Gen. Berndt: We are -- our most important product is the United States Marine. We value that above everything else, above equipment, weapons systems, money, everything. So we always have to ask ourselves, are we giving our Marines the best equipment that we can that is robust, reliable, safe and can operate in a war-fighting, combat environment? And if the answer is yes, then good. If there are problems, we clearly need to make sure that we fix those problems to make sure that the equipment that we give our Marines is the right piece of gear.

Q: Do you think that these Marines were let down by the system earlier by not being given something that should have been tested earlier? As a Marine, would you be apologizing to them?

Gen. Berndt: No, I would not be apologizing to them.

Our Marines, especially the Marines in the squadron that is preparing to become an operational deployable squadron in VMMT 204, are good Marines. They are well-motivated, they're well-trained. Are they frustrated that they can't fly airplanes right now? You bet. You bet. But they're good people and they're working hard.

There is risk associated in every single thing that we do, whether it be as you -- driving to work, or more likely for Marines, deployed someplace and capable and willing to respond to a crisis. We accept some risk. We manage the risk. In this particular case, we realize that there are things that must be fixed before we can put these in the hands of Marines to operate in a combat environment.

Q: General, on your report --

Q: General, do you know whether this particular software was actually ever tested, either in a simulator or in a real live situation?

Gen. Berndt: I don't know the answer to that question. You'd have to go to the manufacturer of the software to ask that.

Q: Follow up. Could you explain what should have happened when they pushed that reset button?

Gen. Berndt: I could, but before I try to do that -- I'm not an aviator, I'm an infantry officer. That's my background. But I do have some people here that are a lot better prepared to answer some of those more technical questions. So I'd ask Lieutenant Colonel Bill Wainwright, who is the executive officer of Marine Aircraft Group 26, to maybe take that one on for you, sir.

Col. Wainwright: Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon. The question was what should have happened when the PFCS button was reset with the dual hydraulic failure. The short answer is absolutely nothing.

The software anomaly that the general referred to, the unintended consequences of the software anomaly with the dual hydraulic failure is what ultimately led to the mishap.

Q: Why do you push it?

Q: What's the purpose of the button, then?

Gen. Berndt: This is something that we hope that this investigation will get to. We don't know the answer to that question right now. The recommendation has been to address the anomaly within the system that caused the aircraft to accelerate and decelerate with rapid pitch changes over a short period of time. That has been the attempt.

Q: But he said the button is not supposed to do anything.

Q: He said it does absolutely nothing. Then why push that button? Then why press it?

Col. Wainwright: Sorry, General. Let me clarify that.

The button is multipurpose. In this particular case, it should have done nothing. There's many other cases out there, flight control anomalies, or I should say deficiencies in the -- problems with the flight controls where -- not critical, but where you'd want to reset the software, where that button has -- it goes to a known good value, and it has very valuable input into the system.

In this particular case, it's really just there.

Because of the logic, it lights up. But when you press it, other than putting the light out, it shouldn't have really done anything at all.

Q: By continuing to push it, did it make the situation worse?

Gen. Berndt: Yes.

Q: And that's because the nacelles were going back and forth?

Gen. Berndt: Not the nacelles, the power, the differences in the power. The accelerating and decelerating of the aircraft every time that button was pressed was what caused the aircraft to stall and lose controlled flight.

Yes.

Q: General, your report says that chafing was discovered as far back as June 1999 and that all eight of your aircraft in this unit had chafing problems.

Gen. Berndt: Yes.

Q: If that's the case, why didn't your maintenance pick this up, and why weren't fixes made?

Gen. Berndt: Well, the fixes have been made.

Q: Yeah, well, why weren't they before the accident?

Gen. Berndt: Wire bundle chafing and hydraulic tube chafing -- again, I'm not an aviator, but I fully understand, is not an uncommon problem. Back in April -- as a matter of fact, April a year ago today, 2000, a service bulletin was issued by Bell-Boeing that identified problems with chafing and hydraulic lines. And the squadron started to inspect those lines. Unfortunately, the affected line that had some role in this mishap was not one of the lines identified to be serviced.

Throughout the inspection process, it was identified by squadron members that there were two other aircraft that had some rubbing and discoloration of that same tube in the same area. So obviously they replaced the tubes.

Yes.

Q: Yes, sir, the question of making this hydraulic system out of titanium, I vaguely remember the Navy having big trouble with titanium hydraulic lines in the F-14. Do you know of another -- do you know the history of using titanium, versus stainless steel?

Gen. Berndt: The titanium lines that are used in the V-22 were by design. They are, of course, light weight. And we have asked that we re-look the entire hydraulic system in the V-22 to find out whether the redundant capability that is built into it is adequate; if not, how it can be amended. And also, and very importantly, the location of anything that can chafe those titanium lines. I can't speak to problems with the F-14 or any other aircraft with regard to titanium lines.

Q: What about getting rid of titanium, going to stainless steel?

Gen. Berndt: Again, I'm -- I -- the recommendation has been let's look at the hydraulic system on the V-22 to find out if we've got it right.

And where we don't have it right, if there is a place, let's correct it. If there are some modifications that we can make, fine.

Q: General?

Gen. Berndt: Yes?

Q: Two questions. First, there were prior indications that some of the hydraulic lines were chafing. We understand that. But were there also any indications prior to this accident that the vehicle management system had any kind of tweaks in it, like the -- like what we saw with this, number one?

And number two, has the investigation also recommended the possibility of putting in better safety equipment, like ejection seats or crew escape hatches or something like that?

Gen. Berndt: The purpose of the investigation was to find out what caused the accident, and it did a very good job of that. It has not gone into a lot of other areas that may or may not be factors in the aircraft. We would hope that the manufacturer of the aircraft will build those to design, as developed by Naval Air Systems Command and others.

Yes?

Q: What's your timeline --

Q: What -- I'm sorry. You didn't mean -- but were there any prior problems with the vehicle management system that the investigators saw that were similar to the ones that they found out about the hydraulic line chafing?

Gen. Berndt: No.

(Cross talk.) I'm sorry. Let me come back over here. Okay.

Q: I'm not sure I understand your recommendation on the hydraulic lines correctly, because I think there's an important difference. Are you basically saying review the hydraulic system, period, or are you saying review the hydraulic system with regard to the placing of the lines and the issue of using the same lines in the part of the systems? Because that's a much narrower focus.

Gen. Berndt: Yes. The specific recommendation is to look at where the lines are, where they can potentially be chafed by something else -- excuse me, sorry; it came apart there a little bit -- and also to look at hydraulic line redundancy.

Q: So you're not asking them to reconsider, for example, the whole issue of 5,000-pound PSI?

Gen. Berndt: No.

Q: How long do you think it will take to carry out all your recommendations?

Gen. Berndt: I have no idea whatsoever. We are very much, of course, interested in the results of the blue-ribbon panel. And they are looking at this from a much larger perspective than this investigation did.

Q: General --

Gen. Berndt: I'm going stay to right here. Last --

Q: General, who is going to test the software? And how are they going to test it? What kind of things are going to do that's going to show them where anomalies are and how they can be prevented in the future?

Gen. Berndt: It's a fairly technical question that I can't turn to anybody right here, unless we have NAVAIRSYSCOM [Naval Air Systems Command] folk here. I would recommend that you take that question to Bell, Boeing, or NAVAIR.

Q: Bell is the primary software provider --

Gen. Berndt: And they may subcontract. I just don't know.

Way in the back. One more question after this.

Q: General, you've talked about the hydraulic problems that were noted earlier. Is there any finding that someone might have been a fault for not acting on those problems? Was that handled properly, or are there questions about that?

Gen. Berndt: This aircraft that crashed on the 11th of December was in excellent shape. It was in excellent shape. There were no maintenance problems with it. Everybody had done everything right. They had followed the NATOPS. What they could not predict was a contributing factor for the accident.

Q: Well, General, you just said earlier that there were documented hydraulic problems --

Gen. Berndt: Yes.

Q: -- due to chafing from the wires.

I wonder whether or not those documented problems were actually acted upon properly and the proper action take to remedy those problems, or was --

Gen. Berndt: Within the scope of this investigation, yes, they were.

Q: General?

Gen. Berndt: One more. Right here.

Q: To your knowledge, the accident aircraft, how close was it to its next visual maintenance inspection interval?

Gen. Berndt: Actually, the maintenance on this aircraft was actually ahead of schedule. It had conducted four 35-hour inspections. It had conducted multiple 200 landing inspections, including a 500 landing inspection, and was actually ahead of its next scheduled large maintenance inspection, which, if you just give me a second, I should be able to identify for you. (Looking through materials.) (To staff) Do you remember, Chris? (Off-mike response from staff.) Two ten. Two hundred ten hours. It had its 210-hour inspection even though it only had 157 hours on the aircraft.

Q: If the blue ribbon panel and DoD IG says you can fly before you have the hydraulics and software problems sorted to your satisfaction, will you fly?

Gen. Berndt: Ma'am, I think we're best off waiting to see what the panel says. I don't want to speculate on what they may or may not say.

Q: General --

Gen. Berndt: One more.

Q: The IG was supposed to -- or we understand that the IG was going to bless at least the accident investigation portion and make sure that none of the investigation was compromised by the falsification accusations. Was anything -- did you learn anything as a result of that review? Did you change any of your conclusions?

Gen. Berndt: Of the DoD IG review?

Q: The interim DoD IG report as it pertains to the JAG manual.

Gen. Berndt: That did not have any effect on this investigation. The investigation was completed, submitted for review and endorsements. Those endorsements were finalized on Monday. The commandant of the Marine Corps reviewed those endorsements and the investigation itself. Recognizing the importance of the IG inspection and also recognizing that there were no maintenance-related problems with this aircraft, we decided to release the results of the investigation.

Q: (Off mike) -- a maintenance issue. I mean, it wasn't like they took off with zero chafing and in a matter of the flight time the chafing occurred. I mean, there must have been prior rubbing, so it's an accumulation. So that makes it a maintenance issue.

Gen. Berndt: There is a challenge here -- and I'll finish up with this-- that needs to be addressed in terms of identifying where the bundles are, wire bundles are and where the hydraulic lines are, and how accessible are they to the inspectors, to the mechanics. Some of these are more difficult to get to. But they were all inspected as per regulation. There was no, "Oh, well, we don't have to do it this month, we've got other things to do." Those parts of the aircraft that were due inspection got inspections. As a matter of fact, they were ahead of their inspection schedule through this process.

Q: And the inspections were properly documented?

Gen. Berndt: I think -- I don't want to answer that. I don't want to answer that because I don't have the maintenance records here. I simply can't answer that. But again, the DoD inspector general will look at that, and I'm sure it will be included in the report.

Thank you very much. I appreciate it.

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