Two Marines were killed in the crash of an MV-22 Osprey on Oahu
Marines say the MV-22 has the service's lowest rate of bad rotorcraft accidents
Deadly accidents plagued the first years of the Osprey, which is used by the Marines and Air Force
When a Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey crashed in Hawaii last weekend, leaving two Marines dead, memories of the troubled past of the tilt-rotor aircraft came to the minds of many.
The cause of the crash during training at Bellows Air Force Station on Oahu is under investigation. Video showed the Osprey, part helicopter and part airplane, descending and thick smoke and a fire erupting from what the Marine Corps called “a hard landing mishap.”
A Marine Corps spokesman told CNN the Hawaii crash doesn’t shake the service’s faith in the aircraft.
“Factually, the MV-22 is safe,” said Capt. Eric Flanagan of Marine Corps Public Affairs. “The MV-22 had the lowest Class A flight mishap rate of all Marine rotorcraft through the first 200,000 flight hours.” (A Class A flight mishap is one that results in loss of life or more than $2 million in damage to equipment. An Osprey costs about $70 million.)
“Thanks to its speed, maneuverability, and numerous capabilities, the MV-22 is in high demand among commanders worldwide, and has already surpassed 223,000 flight hours conducting many types of missions,” Flanagan said.
The road to that confidence has seen a number of casualties.
Development of the aircraft, built by Bell Helicopter and Boeing, began in 1982, as a replacement for the Marine Corps heavy-lift helicopters such as the CH-46.
However, trouble quickly found the new aircraft. In 1992, seven people were killed during testing when an Osprey crashed in Virginia.
A crash during training in Arizona on April 8, 2000, killed 19 Marines. That crash was blamed on pilot error, with investigators concluding the pilot tried to land too fast and at too steep of an angle, causing a loss of lift.
And on December 11, 2000, four Marines were killed when an Osprey crashed in North Carolina, an accident later blamed on problems with a hydraulic part and a software anomaly in the aircraft’s computer system.
After those incidents, the aircraft was grounded for a redesign and resumed flights in 2002. About $20 billion was spent on its development.
The Marine Corps version of the Osprey saw its first action in Iraq in 2007, quickly earning the trust of those commanders.
“In Operation Enduring Freedom (Ospreys) took small arms, rocket-propelled grenade and heavy machine gun fire on multiple occasions and in every case were able to safely continue flight to friendly territory,” Flanagan said.
The Osprey has a greater payload and is also 60% faster (320 mph) with a similarly longer range than the CH-46 helicopters it is replacing, Flanagan said. The aircraft, with a crew of two, can carry 24 troops more than 260 miles.
Besides their combat role, Ospreys also can be tasked to take on aerial refueling, surveillance and reconnaissance and disaster relief missions, he said.
Marine Corps Ospreys have been vital in the recent earthquake relief mission in Nepal and performed similar duty after the Supertyphoon Haiyan struck the Philippines in November 2013.
The Marines have even added an Osprey to the fleet that supports Marine One, the presidential helicopter. While the President isn’t expected to be flying on one, an Osprey has been used to shuttle Secret Service, White House staff and media when the President travels by copter.
The Air Force version of the Osprey, the CV-22, became operational in 2009 and its used by Special Operations Forces for long-range infiltrations and extractions.
According to reports from Breaking Defense and the U.S. Naval Institute News this year, the Navy will develop a third version of the V-22 to replace an aircraft carrier on-board delivery aircraft, the C-2A Greyhound.
CNN’s Jamie Crawford contributed to this report.