Would you feel safe in an Osprey? Most U.S. Marines would probably say no. In a tragic moment of vindication, on May 15th an MV-22 Osprey flying in Hawaii made a hard landing which killed one Marine and sent 21 others to the hospital. Pervasive among comments of respect for the fallen and injured Marines is a tangible frustration with the Osprey’s safety and reliability.
The tiltrotor aircraft’s troubled history stretches back to its initial development. During the testing process from 1991 to 2000, pilots suffered a total of 30 fatalities. After going into service, the Osprey developed a reputation for unreliability after a series of high profile crashes.
However, experts say that the Osprey isn’t nearly as unsafe as it appears. According to Loren Thompson, an analyst at the Lexington Institute, the Osprey does not have an unusually high number of accidents despite perception to the contrary. With a total of 223,000 flight hours under its belt, the Osprey has a mishap rating of 3.2 per 100,000 flight hours. That doesn’t include any accident, but ones involving loss of life or damage exceeding $2 million.
To put that in perspective, the CH-46 Sea Knight, a Marine Corps helicopter in service since the 1960s, has a mishap rate of 2.98 per 100,000 flight hours. In other words, statistically speaking the Osprey is only .22 times more likely to suffer a mishap than the Sea Knight.
Is the Osprey really an unsafe machine, or do the numbers speak for themselves: would you feel safe in an Osprey? Sound off!