Danger Room: Crash-Prone Hybrid Copter’s New Mission: Hauling the President’s Peeps

31.08.11

Categorie: Accidents, Air, David Axe, Wired |
Tags: ,

V-22. Flickr photo.

V-22. Flickr photo.

by DAVID AXE

It crashed four times in development, killing 30 crew and passengers. An unexplained crash during a combat mission in Afghanistan last year claimed four more lives. Despite its lethal reputation, in April the controversial V-22 Osprey tiltrotor got a high-profile new assignment: hauling cargo for the president’s entourage, starting in 2013.

Now that mission has expanded, and the Osprey will haul the entourage itself. A July solicitation by Marine Corps asks for a company to supply VIP kits for four Ospreys. The kits include a liner to disguise the cabin’s pipes and wires, softer seats and a carpet bearing the squadron logo for the aircraft’s ramp.

Some observers see the VIP mods as a baby step towards putting the president himself in the $100-million dollar aircraft, dubbed the “Dream Machine” by one fawning writer. After an expensive false start, the Pentagon wants to buy a new fleet of presidential transports starting in 2017; the V-22 is officially a candidate.

Read the rest at Danger Room.

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9 Responses to “Danger Room: Crash-Prone Hybrid Copter’s New Mission: Hauling the President’s Peeps”

  1. Schwerpunk-t says:

    I saw this on DT and was suprised they never mentioned the 4 crashes during development. I also thought “Seriously, the Osprey? Carting around VIPs on presidential trips?!”

    BUT, then I got thinking too, the Osprey seems to have seen a lot of action in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere (I’m guessing), and you are right to point out the ONE crash, but is that so bad?

    So, with this decision, and not hearing much about Osprey crashes the past few years I’m left wondering if lessons were learned, problems were fixed, and if this in fact generally a safe bird now.

    Does anyone out there know the numbers on how its performance has actually been compared to other aircraft operating in the same places?

  2. Pete says:

    You sure the Osprey is a “Hybrid”. I always thought this meant a vehicle had two types of power or propulsion. Like a moped or a Prius. I thought the Osprey only had Turbine engines and am not sure pointing the props in different directions qualifies it as a Hybrid. Just being picky.

  3. David Axe says:

    “Hybrid” just means combining two things. In this case, a helicopter and an airplane.

  4. David Axe says:

    Yeah, the numbers are mixed. The V-22 has flown around 100,000 hours spread across more than 100 airframes over the past decade, with most of those hours in the last few years. There have been several V-22 deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan and other conflict zones. One has crashed, and there have been several other non-crash “incidents.” But it’s hard to make a direct comparison to other aircraft, as the V-22 still mostly sticks to niche missions like VIP support, rather than performing routine hot, high and heavy duties. If pressed, I would say that the V-22 currently crashes or breaks at roughly the same rate as other aircraft, adjusted for heaviness of use. But the V-22 still fails on several other counts: its payload is light, altitude performance is poor and it could be very expensive to operate, depending on how you parse the numbers. You could just shrug and say the jury’s still out. Or you can be like me, and be very skeptical. I’ve heard all the pro-V-22 arguments over the years, and I want to believe them, as I like airplanes — especially cool new ones. But in wartime, you need aircraft that can take a beating in rough terrain, while under fire. Not so sure the V-22 can fill that bill.

  5. Schwerpunk-t says:

    Thank you, that’s a excellently comprehensive answer — much appreciated. I’m undecided on this, I was utterly against it during development when it kept crashing and it seemed like the Marines and others just kept insisting on development.

    Its being untested in “hot, high, and heavy” conditions is compelling. I’ll continue to lean towards skeptical but keep an open-mind. It will depend on what its ultimate mission is. I’m realizing I’m not even sure why this was developed, what it is supposed to replace or what need it is supposed to fill. Guess I’ll head over to wikipedia now — but also if I remember right, during the controversial development, part of the uproar was no one knew exactly what it was for other than it seemed pretty cool to have a helicopter-plane.

  6. Chatwin says:

    It’s unfair of you to call the guy who wrote the “Dream Machine” book you link to a “fawning writer” – the subtitle of calls it “the Notorious V-22 Osprey”.

  7. David Axe says:

    Yeah, Richard and I just had a long conversation about this. I ended up removing the word from the Wired post. Bottom line is, I deeply disagree with Richard’s assessment of the V-22, and I believe his recent work has helped propagate some misinformation coming from the Navy/Marine Corps. Still, you’re right: “fawning” was probably too harsh. In any event, more to come on the V-22.

  8. That image should really be credited “CC-BY-2.0/Michael Pereckas”. Here is its Flickr page: http://www.flickr.com/photos/beigephotos/2858217698. And the relevant Creative Commons licence description: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en_GB

  9. greg says:

    Just glad iI got out before I ever had to ride in one.. No offence to the pilots, or designers of the craft.. Just my gut feeling.

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