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Military Investigation Finds Faulty Construction of V-22 Osprey

Aired April 5, 2001 - 14:39   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: We're going back to the Pentagon for our next story. You'll recall two fatal V-22 Osprey crashes last year killed 23 Marines, put the fate of that controversial multibillion- dollar aircraft program into jeopardy. There has, subsequent to that, been a judge advocate general's -- what's called a manual investigation. We're about to hear the results of that investigation from Major General Martin Berndt at the Pentagon.

MAJ. GEN. MARTIN BERNDT, U.S. MARINE CORPS: 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, they can serve as the basis of administrative or legal actions.

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

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 under way.

This accident has been thoroughly investigated. The mishap resulted from a hydraulic system failure, compounded by a computer software anomaly.

The air crew 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 craft's 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.

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

On December 11 of last year, four Marines perished when an MV-22 Bravo Osprey, call sign 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 nightvision-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 airspeed 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 airspeed 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 the transition from the airplane mode, a main hydraulic line ruptured that feeds the aircraft's left swash 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 controls 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 control flight.

At 7:24:10, just 30 seconds 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.

WATERS: Major General Martin Berndt at the Pentagon describing the December 2000 crash of a V-22 Osprey. The Marine said in January, subsequent to that crash -- one of two last year, that they were nearly certain the December crash was caused by the failure of the hydraulic system. And the report released today following a JAG manual investigation of that and the other fatal incident involving a V-22 Osprey concludes that the hydraulics system failure, compounded by software problems caused both of those crashes, causing a chain of unpredictable and uncontrollable events.

The investigation recommends, now, reviewing the entire computer flight-control system and associated software and the placement of hydraulic lines and wire bundles within the engine. You heard the major general describe what went wrong. These two crashes threaten to end entirely the V-22 Osprey program. And that was one of the -- what inspired the JAG investigation, and now the results of the investigation have been made public. Where we go from here are questions for on down the line.

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