New mission proves Osprey the real thing

Posted Friday, Aug. 16, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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At one point, the Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft was the “ugly duckling” of the American military’s flying fleet.

Some people didn’t trust it. In addition to being considered too expensive to build and maintain, it had a questionable safety record early on, was grounded for a while after two fatal crashes and threatened with never being deployed for military use.

But since its redesign and receiving clearance for deployment in 2005, the MV-22 Osprey has turned into a swan, winning approval from officers in the combat zones of Iraq and Afghanistan and chalking up a performance record that outshines the helicopters that it replaced.

Among the attributes of this hybrid, which can take off and land like a helicopter but fly like an airplane, are its ability to “fly twice as fast, carry three times as much and fly four times the distance of the older CH-46 helicopter,” according to a statement from the U.S. Marines.

The aircraft, developed by Fort Worth-based Bell Helicopter and Boeing Co., has now been tested in actual combat and in the extreme weather and terrain conditions of Middle Eastern countries. It has performed as it was designed, so much so that the military in June announced it would purchase 99 more of the aircraft, 92 for the Navy and Marines and seven for the Air Force.

Though now combat-proven, perhaps the Osprey’s greatest commendation came just a few days ago when the futuristic craft joined the presidential fleet that transports the chief executive, secret service, reporters and VIPs. It made its debut last weekend when the Obama family left Washington to begin a vacation on Martha’s Vineyard.

Note that the president himself will not be a passenger on the Osprey, but it will fly the press corps, security personnel and others who travel wherever he goes, probably because the president’s Marine One is equipped with other security, medical and communications equipment that’s not yet built into the Osprey.

Still, this latest development bodes well for an aircraft originally designed and tested in Fort Worth that has had a rocky past.

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