A U.S. Marine Corps V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor helicopter crashed on Dec. 13, injuring two of the five Marines on board. However, all five were safely airlifted from the crash site off the coast of Okinawa, Japan, according to the Nikkei Asian Review.
Japanese daily newspaper The Mainichi reported that the Marines’ were conducting an aerial refueling training operation at the time of the crash and, although the investigation is ongoing, U.S. military officials say they “are highly confident” the crash occurred when the Osprey’s rotor blades struck the refueling line and damaged the aircraft. Following the deadly aircraft’s latest mishap, news outlets reported that military officials grounded the entire fleet at the urging of Japan Defence Minister Tomomi Inada. However, less than a week after the mishap and despite an active investigation, officials cleared the fleet to resume operations Dec. 19.
Military officials commended the pilots for recognizing there was a problem and choosing an option that reduced the risk to civilians. The pilots opted to the keep the aircraft offshore rather than exposing more lives to danger by flying over a populated area in order to reach the air station. Regardless, the crash deepened local residents’ fears about the aircraft’s questionable safety record.
The Osprey has been plagued with safety issues since its inception. It was designed to function as both an airplane and a helicopter, yet the two types of aircraft perform completely differently. The design’s compromise prevents the Osprey from effectively performing either function safely. Additionally, the aircraft is cursed with a defect that causes significant dust intake and “turbine blade glassification,” which is an erosive condition that can lead to engine failure. Risks of an Osprey malfunctioning due to these defects are heightened when it hovers too long in one area. At the time of the crash, the Osprey was hoovering as it waited for the refueling process to finish.
Osprey helicopters have been forced into several emergency landings since the vehicle’s first deployment in 2007. Three of those landings occurred in December 2016. On the same night as the Dec. 13 crash landing, another V-22 experienced landing gear problems as it was landing at the same air station in Futenma. The Marine Corps Times reports that it suffered an electrical system failure, which affected the signals on the landing gear.
Earlier in the month, an Osprey based at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego, Calif., was forced to make an “unplanned landing,” according to San Diego’s NBC 7. The San Diego-based aircraft landed in an open field in the Cleveland National Forest safely – without injuries to any of the six crewmembers or damage to the aircraft. One pilot reportedly attributed the cause of the mishap to “an engine malfunction with the hydraulics.”
Mike Andrews, the lawyer at Beasley Allen who handles aviation litigation and has handled several Osprey cases, is familiar with past issues involving hydraulics. After identifying problems with the aircraft’s hydraulic lines and aircraft operational software, the military responded with revisions to the aircraft to increase its safety.
The aircraft has also been involved in a number of fatal crashes. Most recently, two U.S. Marines, 21-year-old Lance Cpl. Matthew Determan and 24-year-old Cpl. Joshua Barron, who were stationed at Bellows Air Force Station in Hawaii, were killed in May 2015 when their Osprey crashed during a training operation. Determan’s family hired our Law firm and Honolulu lawyer Melvin Y. Agena to represent them in a wrongful death lawsuit. We will prove that this aircraft is defective and highly dangerous. Following the May 2015 fatal crash in Hawaii, NBC News reported that the V-22 Osprey helicopter has claimed 37 lives and injured many more.
Fortunately, no lives were lost during these latest three V-22 Osprey mishaps, but members of the Nago Municipal Assembly believe that if the aircraft continue training in or near their prefecture, it is just a matter of time before a crash or other tragedy occurs. If you need more information on this subject, contact Mike Andrews, a lawyer in our Personal Injury & Products Liability Section at 800-898-2034 or by email at Mike.Andrews@beasleyallen.com. Mike handles aviation litigation for the firm.
Sources: Nikkei Asian Review, The Mainichi, Marine Corps Times
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