Pilots in fatal Osprey crash in Morocco face possible loss of flight status
The Daily News, Jacksonville, N.C.
JACKSONVILLE, N.C. — The pilot and copilot of an MV-22 Osprey crash in Morocco that killed two New River Marines earlier this year could be facing loss of flight status or conditional changes to flight status, Marine Corps officials said Friday.
The II Marine Expeditionary Force investigation into the plane crash that killed New River Cpls. Robby Reyes and Derek Kerns, both MV-22 crew chiefs, revealed that the aircraft did not suffer from mechanical or material failures nor any problems with the safety features of the plane, leaving operator error as the only other explanation, according to Marine Corps officials.
Lt. Gen. Robert Schmittel, deputy commandant of Marine Corps Aviation, explained to reporters in a press briefing at the Pentagon Friday that when it came time to land the Osprey, the pilots decided not to land in the designated landing zone because there were people, vehicles and multiple structures inside the zone.
As a result, they turned away from the landing zone, which put the wind at the tail of the plane instead of in the front. The wind blowing somewhere between 15 and 27 knots eventually caused the nose to dip down, he said. Because the pilots had chosen to fly the Osprey like an airplane instead of a helicopter, which is one of the most notable abilities of the aircraft, the nacelles were down and were unable to lift the nose of the airplane with the wind blowing so heavily, resulting in a literal downward spiral toward the ground and the eventual crash that killed the two crew chiefs, who were in the back of the plane, and injured both pilots.
“One of the things that could have been done is if the airplane had been flown like a helicopter and they’d left the propellers up until they had enough forward speed to override the tailwind (they wouldn’t have crashed),” Schmittel said in the briefing, while adding that another Osprey pilot with more flight hours had recently flown a similar maneuver with no problems.
However, Schmittel added, “these are very good pilots that end up in these airplanes...(The pilot who crashed) did not have as much as experience as the other one did, but exactly how much that contributed, it would be hard for me to tell.”
In an address clearly dedicated to the media present from Japan, which has recently been scrutinizing the Osprey’s abilities since the plane is currently being deployed to that country, Schmittel stressed that mechanical failure was not to blame.
“It’s now flown over 130,000 hours and it’s on its 13th combat deployment,” he said. “We believe it is a solid and safe airplane. I am committed to doing all that I can to keep this kind of mishap from occurring again.”
Schmittel said the Marine Corps has begun taking action already by briefing all MV-22 pilots on the incident, and they plan to take more action in the future by revising the pilot manual to specifically include the Morocco incident along with instructions on how the pilots should handle a similar situation.
The fate of the pilots and their flight status will not be determined until a field flight performance board convenes when the pilots have fully recovered from the injuries. When the pilots are well enough to sit on the board, a thorough investigation into the pilot’s actions on the day of the crash will begin, Schmittel said.