For the crew of U.S. Air Force CV-22 Osprey number 06-0031, a lot of things went wrong on the early morning of April 9, 2010, in southern Afghanistan. A series of alleged pilot errors and possible mechanical failures sent the speedy, hybrid aircraft — which takes off and lands like a helicopter but cruises like an airplane — crashing to the ground.
Four people died.
The loss of 06-0031 was a tragedy for the victims and their families. It was also problematic for proponents of the controversial Osprey. In recent years, elements within the U.S. military have worked hard to portray the V-22 as safe, reliable and combat-ready. The Afghanistan crash threatened to undermine that effort.
Which perhaps explains why the Air Force appeared to cover up the possible real cause of 06-0031’s deadly mishap. The lead investigator, Brig. Gen Donald Harvel, claimed that the V-22 suffered engine problems before its crash. Then Harvel’s superior officer overruled the initial decision, chalking up the accident mostly to pilot error. That took the heat off the Osprey itself.
“There was absolutely a lot of pressure to change my report,” he told Air Force Times, adding that the flying branch was focused on protecting the V-22’s reputation.