Osprey makes precautionary landing, starts fire

U.S. Marines jump from an Osprey

A MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft made an unscheduled landing Wednesday night in North Carolina after one of its engines ran low on fuel. The aircraft, based out of the Marine Corps Air Station in New River, N.C., was conducting low altitude training when it made a precautionary landing at 7 p.m. in Holly Shelter Game Land south of the air station. The crew of four was not hurt.

Marines refueled the Osprey but according to WECT.com, upon taking off it “smashed into swamp mud, nose first”.  During that takeoff attempt, heat from the engine exhaust started a vegetation fire which did some damage to the exterior of the aircraft.

A news release from the Marine Corp claims…

The grass fire was quickly extinguished by the crew chief, but caused an undetermined amount of heat damage to the aircraft exterior.

But Emergency Management Director Eddie King said the local fire department had to work through the night to extinguish a 5-acre fire, in an area infested with snakes and alligators, that was caused by the incident.

On Thursday afternoon the Osprey was flown back to the New River Air Station.

It is interesting that the Marine Corps said the precautionary landing was caused by an engine running low on fuel. The aircraft has a drive shaft through the wings that connects the two engines, making it possible for one engine to power both prop-rotors. This feature may have prevented it from completely losing control and crashing.

There have been at least four crashes involving Ospreys:

  • June 1991– a nacelle struck the ground while the aircraft was hovering, causing it to bounce and catch fire.
  • July 1992– An Osprey caught fire and crashed into the Potomac River at Quantico before an audience of Congressmen, killing all seven crewmen.
  • April 2000– At Marana airport in Arizona an Osprey descended too quickly and crashed, killing all 19 on board.
  • December 2000– A series of problems and design flaws, a swiss cheese effect, caused a crash into a forest near Jacksonville, North Carolina, killing all four on board.

The development budget of the Osprey, first estimated at $2.5 billion in 1986, will cost at least $54 billion before the program is complete according to Wikipedia. About two percent of that would have paid for an entire fleet of new purpose-built air tankers.