Sources Say CV-22 Crash in Afghanistan Due to Pilot Error

Defense Tech colleague Jamie McIntyre at our sister site, Line of Departure, has the latest on the fatal CV-22 crash in Afghanistan. Here’s what Jamie found:

By Jamie McIntyre

An investigation of the crash of an Air Force special operations CV-22 Osprey in Afghanistan last month has concluded the pilot of the tilt-rotor aircraft flew too close to the ground, striking an earthen berm, a source who has been briefed on the finding tells Line Of Departure.

The conclusions of the accident investigators — which haven’t been released because they are not yet final — rule out mechanical malfunction and hostile fire as possible causes of the first crash of an operational model of the controversial heli-plane.

The final report is likely to blame the mishap on pilot error, because the evidence suggests the V-22 was flying at high speed, at very low altitude, in airplane mode, with its massive rotors perpendicular to the ground when it struck the berm.

A source says the force of the impact sheared off both engines (nacelles) and both wings before the plane flipped over. Remarkably of the 20 occupants, 16 survived the crash. The dead included an Air Force pilot, an Air Force flight engineer, an Army ranger, and a civilian whose affiliation was not disclosed.

Proponents of the V-22 have argued the aircraft’s design makes surviving a crash more likely, and the incident would likely lend credence to that argument. It will also dispute statements made by the Taliban, which after the crash on the night of April 8/April 9 claimed credit for shooting the down.

The accident report neither validates the V-22’s proponents, nor vindicates its detractors. It may just postpone that debate until the next incident.

“I don’t think it means anything for the future of the V-22, because obviously that kind of thing could happen to any aircraft if its just a question of flying too fast and too low”, says longtime aviation reporter Richard Whittle, author of the authoritative new book, “The Dream Machine: the Untold History of the Notorious V-22 Osprey.“

Whittle cautions against blaming the pilot for the crash, before the full investigation is released, “Whether a pilot is actually negligent or not is a very difficult question,” says Whittle, “but if that turns out to be the case, then obviously it has nothing to do with the mechanics of the V-22, or possibly even the tactics, maybe the Air Force has to rethink their tactics, I don’t know.

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