“Hard-landing mishap.” That’s the euphemism the U.S. Marine Corps has chosen to describe the May 17 crash of one of their MV-22 Ospreys on Oahu. Video obtained by Honolulu news stations show the aircraft broke apart on impact and burned completely.
“One Marine was killed when an MV-22 Osprey from the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit experienced a hard-landing mishap while conducting training aboard Marine Corps Training Area–Bellows at approximately 11:40 a.m., Hawaii time,” states the official Marine Corps press release on the crash, sent out the same day as the crash. “Twenty-two Marines were aboard at the time, and all other 21 have been transported to local hospitals for assessment and treatment.”
Of course, the Marines Corps’ hesitation to use the word “crash” to describe the Osprey’s complete, catastrophic destruction is understandable. “Mishaps” and crashes have plagued its entire life (the aircraft has been operational since 2007, and was under extensive testing for 16 years prior to that). Indeed, the aircraft’s Wikipedia page lists seven crashes, many more “mishaps” and nearly 40 fatalities racked up by the plane during its testing and operational life.
The Osprey is a controversial cargo plane that can carry a couple dozen troops, but it also lands and takes off vertically, like the old, heavy helicopters it replaced. It accomplishes this by having its engines, which are mounted on the wing tips, tilt 45 degrees in flight. That means it’s a tricky bird to fly–and especially land–under the best of conditions.
“Able to do only a few missions with any level of competence, the Osprey is actually overall inferior to the Vietnam-era CH-46 helicopter it replaced,” the blog War is Boring reported on July 15, 2014. “A notoriously unforgiving aircraft, the Osprey is almost impossible to land in a brown-out situation, in which dust and dirt envelope the cockpit… Once on station, the Osprey has still more problems. It can’t hover for very long so it can’t loiter well. The V-22’s prop-boxes—the transmission allowing the propellers to act as rotors—have great difficulty shedding heat. The only way to cool them is to fly around in airplane mode.”
According to the Marine Corps news release on the Bellows crash, the cause of the crash is under investigation.
Photo of Marine Corps Osprey in 2008: US Navy/Specialist 3rd Class Patrick Gearhiser/Wikimedia Commons