Marine Corps Ospreys take flight in Hawaii
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser
HONOLULU — The Marine Corps put on a miniature air show Thursday at Kaneohe Bay to showcase the abilities of the tilt-rotor MV-22 Osprey while also getting in some training on its first afloat deployment through the Pacific as part of the three-ship Boxer Amphibious Ready Group.
Four of the hybrid aircraft, which take off like a helicopter and then rotate turbo-shaft propellers forward to fly like a conventional airplane, flew 600 miles from the USS Boxer to Kona on Wednesday, simulating a long-range strike mission.
On Thursday, the first time the aircraft have ever flown over Oahu, an Osprey demonstrated takeoffs from the Marine Corps base and the rapid transition to airplane mode.
A group of "distinguished visitors" and media were taken on a flight and shown how the MV-22 can practically leap off the ground and accelerate in a ground combat environment, hit speeds of 250 mph and greater in level flight, and bank at 60 degrees. Kaneohe Bay is expected to get 24 of the aircraft in 2015 and 2016.
Marine Corps Base Hawaii commander, Col. Brian Annichiarico, said that in addition to the training, part of the reason to demonstrate the Ospreys was to dispel some misconceptions about safety and noise.
"Noise-wise, it's actually less noisy than the aircraft that we have here right now," Annichiarico said.
Lt. Col. Kevin Duffy, the commander of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 166, said the Osprey is designed to quickly make the transition to airplane mode.
"It's more efficient. It operates better, and it's much quieter like that," Duffy said. "So most of the time, 95 percent of the time the Osprey is flying, it's going to be in airplane mode. It will be in conversion (helicopter) mode just for takeoffs and landings."
Noise was a concern for some Kaneohe Bay residents when an environmental impact statement analysis was done for the Ospreys and the planned arrival of 27 Huey and Cobra attack helicopters.
The Navy completed a single analysis for the three aircraft, averaging the noise levels over a 24-hour period and making it difficult to gauge which aircraft are the noisiest and when.
A chart in the EIS showed the "maximum instantaneous sound level" in the vicinity of Kealohi Point at about 81 decibels for Ospreys, 88 decibels for CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters, 82 decibels for P-3C Orion airplanes and just over 90 decibels for Air Force C-17 cargo carriers.
"The fact is, these (Ospreys) are going to be quieter. So that's a benefit," state Rep. Cynthia Thielen, who represents Kailua and Kaneohe Bay and was one of three state legislators to fly on an Osprey Thursday, said before the flight.
"I think when we have a quieter machine, the residents are going to feel more comfortable," Thielen said.
The Osprey's safety record, meanwhile, has been the subject of controversy since a series of crashes during its early test phase, as well as two fatal crashes in 2012 and a hard landing in Nevada on Monday.
But experts say its safety record compares very favorably with those of military helicopters.
Looking at all military aircraft, the Osprey "is one of the safest airframes that are out there right now," Duffy said. "We did have some issues in the past, but I can tell you right now, it is the safest rotorcraft that we're flying."
Used in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Osprey has been called a "game changer" by the military as the most flexible, capable and revolutionary combat troop transport, cargo, search-and-rescue and medevac aircraft in the world.
Ospreys can carry 24 Marines twice as fast and five times farther than helicopters, according to the U.S. military. Their top speed is nearly 300 mph.
The aircraft are expected to fly in Hawaii through the weekend as the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group, which left San Diego Aug. 23, deploys to the Western Pacific and the Middle East.