Now that it is airborne in New Mexico, it's time for the CV-22 Osprey to QUIET THE CRITICS

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Matthew Hannen
  • Torch Magazine
With the CV-22 Osprey soaring above the skies at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., it's perhaps a sign of the aircraft's resiliency, having overcome heavy controversy in the press and in Congress the past few years.

The criticism came from the aircraft's high cost and some well-publicized mishaps during the development stage. One CV-22 in particular succumbed to mechanical issues, which brought the aircraft down in Arizona; five crewmembers and a dozen Army and Marine troops perished. Even while passing live fire tests and proving survivable, the bad press and public relations picture of the aircraft proved to be challenging to aircrew and pilots who know the plane best.

With the CV-22 pilot training program at the 71st Special Operations Squadron at Kirtland going strong, its aircrew members find the current critics off the mark.

"It seems like every time I tell someone that I fly in CV-22s, they still have that bad taste in their mouth, because it had a shaky history in the development stages," said Staff Sgt. Jeremy Hoyh, CV-22 flight engineer. "But it's a safe aircraft, and the public needs to realize that it is capable - it's not as dangerous as people think."

According to Master Sgt. Jim Hesick, 71st Aircraft Maintenance Unit CV-22 crew chief, every new major weapons system goes through growing pains, but he says that's why they use operational risk management to ensure the safety of the aircraft and crew.

"Thus far, problems we've come across haven't been insurmountable or unsafe to the aircraft or crew," Hesick said. "But we're big on ORM. So we're taking the necessary precautions, just as you would in any new aircraft."

Despite the negativity, the CV-22 isn't a small research project off in the corner of the Department of Defense, according to Lt. Col. Todd Lovell, 71st SOS director of operations.

"We're getting a lot of phone calls from individuals asking how they can get into the program," Lovell said. "They want to know what the future holds.

"The real strengths of the CV-22 are speed, range and the ability to land in a helicopter landing zone. That's the capability that no one in the world has ever had. If you just want to go from here at Kirtland to downtown Albuquerque and land on a small spot, take a helicopter. If you want to be able to take people cross country, across Iraq or insert forces directly into their objective area, we offer something that no one else can."

Lt. Col. Jim Cordoso, the 71st SOS commander, agrees.

"The CV-22 Osprey is not a rumor; it's not a myth; it's not an acquisition nicety," he said. "It's here on the ramp, and it's flying regular sorties, training the future Air Force Special Operations Command operational aircrews who are going to fight the global war on terrorism."

Staff Sgt. Marisa Hannen, 19th Air Force noncommissioned officer in charge of the personnel section, contributed to this article.