At JAG's behest, Navy reviews Osprey's software

At JAG's behest, Navy reviews Osprey's software

BY DAWN S. ONLEY | GCN STAFF

While four Marines aboard a V-22 Osprey frantically pushed a software reset button last December, the tilt-rotor aircraft flew into a frenzy.

It gained and lost airspeed and altitude before crashing in a marshy area seven miles from the Marine Corps Air Station at New River, N.C. The Dec. 11 crash killed four Marines. It was the second fatal Osprey crash in 2000. The first one, in April, killed 29 Marines.

The flight-control software problem was ruled the second main cause of the fatal accident. The first was a hydraulic line that ruptured after chafing. The Marines pushed the software reset button about eight times, but it failed to kick in. The Osprey finally stalled and crashed.

Review needed

The Marines' judge advocate general last month issued those conclusions, based on nearly four months of interviews of air traffic controllers and engineers and a study of recording devices.

The JAG recommended that the Naval Air Systems Command and Osprey manufacturers Boeing Co. and Bell Helicopter Textron Inc. of Fort Worth, Texas, conduct a comprehensive review of the vehicle management system and software, said Maj. Gen. Martin R. Berndt, commander of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Unit.

A NAVAIR spokeswoman said the command has already begun its review.

A second report, released shortly after the JAG findings, concluded that the V-22 Osprey's tilt-rotor design poses no real safety concerns, although the aircraft is besieged with other problems that should limit production to a 'bare minimum.'

Plagued with problems

That is the recommendation of a four-member review panel appointed by the Pentagon to study the Osprey program after the crash. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is now reviewing the report.

The incident illustrates that the V-22 is still plagued with problems, the Pentagon review panel concluded in its April 18 report. Panel members recommended the Marine Corps limit production of the V-22. But first, the service should make major changes to resolve some mechanical failings, such as the loss of lift when in helicopter mode.

Prior to the most recent accident, the Corps had planned to spend $30 billion on full-scale production of more than 300 Ospreys.

The crash is still under investigation by the Defense Department's inspector general. The IG is investigating whether falsified maintenance records at the Osprey squadron's headquarters at New River contributed to the December crash.

DOD spokeswoman Susan Hansen said she couldn't estimate when the IG investigation would conclude.

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