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Low-level Osprey flight plans termed ‘risky’

Date Posted: 2012-08-01

Plans for operational testing of the Marines’ new MV-22 Osprey aircraft in mainland Japan before deployment to Okinawa are drawing complaints not from Japan, but from a U.S. aviation technology expert in the United States.

Rex Rivolo, head of technology at an American aircraft company, says flying the tilt-rotor transport planes at extremely low levels over mountainous areas in mainland Japan will be much more dangerous than operations the Osprey would encounter flying in Okinawa. He says the plans will be more susceptible to air currents, noting the Osprey isn’t capable of agile movements when its rotors are angled for helicopter flight.

He says the risks are high, particularly on take off and landing when the MV-22 is in vertical mode like a helicopter, and also when flying in formations because they can be affected by each other’s rotor-generated turbulence. “The wake of one airplane can upset another,” Rivalo, former chief analyst at Virginia-based Institute for Defense Analyses. “There are a lot of opportunities for a pilot to make a mistake,” he says, “and if you make a mistake in an MV-22, you crash.”

Pentagon Spokesman George Little says the U.S. has no plans to alter Osprey flight training at low levels over mainland Japan. “I’m not aware of any changes” to the missions. The Marine Corps plans to conduct training around Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu.

Twelve MV-22’s are on the tarmac at Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station, awaiting the green light to begin operations training. The Japanese government is pushing the U.S. to guarantee that the transport planes will be operated safely in Japan, and has been in meetings with the Japan-U.S. Joint Committee. Aside from release of investigation reports on several Osprey crashes in Morocco and the United States, it wants some care given to where the planes are flown.

Japan has asked that the Ospreys fly routes over the ocean as much as possible.

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