Check out this shot of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta getting off a Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey after arriving in New York City for a visit to the 9/11 Memorial there yesterday.
In its earliest combat deployments, the V-22 had a somewhat unwarranted reputation as a VIP taxi that was kept out of harm's way. However, it does seem to be fulfilling that role stateside.
UPDATE: The hour-long flight from DC to New York was the first of what will likely be many stateside V-22 missions transporting the Secdef and other Washington officials, according to the Marines.
No word yet on which unit ferried Panetta to NYC or why the Osprey was used.
The Ospreys were from Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 266 (VMM-266) out of Marine Corps Air Station New River, NC, according to Marine Corps spokesman Capt. Kevin Schultz.
Schultz tells DT that Panetta's office requested the Ospreys for the flight to New York and that this was likley the new Secdef's first-ever ride in an MV-22. However, this certainly won't be Panetta or other VIPs' last ferry trip in a V-22 given that tiltrotor transport "is the new norm," Schultz added in an email:
This type of air transportation is the new norm and can be expected to be seen more and more often. Logistically, it makes things very easy...yesterday's trip included a Pentagon pad pick-up, an approximate one hour flight direct to the Wall Street Pad and opposite flow for the way home.Remember, the Quantico, Va.,-based HMX-1 presidential/VIP transport squadron is slated to receive 14 Ospreys (that will be equipped with VIP transport kits) starting in 2013.
As we said earlier today, using a V-22 for this op makes some sense, it can pick the Secdef up at the Pentagon's heliport and whisk him to downtown Manhattan at airplane speeds without the need to go through airports. Still, you can bet that some people are bound to ask why all available V-22s aren't being used for combat or training ops.
(Notice that there's another MV-22 in the background, it looks like they're at the Downtown Manhattan Heliport.)