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V-22 Ospreys Will Need New Engine Component Every 100 Hours
By CHRISTIAN LOWE
All V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor transports will be required to replace a crucial engine component every 100 flight hours, U.S. naval aviation officials announced July 15.
The new order is the result of an initial engineering investigation into the emergency landing of an Osprey during test flights June 28 aboard the U.S. amphibious assault ship Iwo Jima.
During shipboard tests, a V-22 was forced to land when its right nacelle blower dislodged and came apart in the engine housing.
The nacelle blower is a device used to cool the engine when the Osprey is in helicopter mode. In normal flying mode, airflow from forward motion cools the engine.
The Navy said the replacement order would not affect the Osprey’s current testing program, which just wrapped up shipboard suitability tests in preparation for full-scale operational testing next year.
The engine blower must be replaced “every 100 flight hours thereafter until either additional investigation mitigates the periodicity or the blower design is changed,” officials from Naval Air Systems Command said in a release.
The changes will be made despite an “anti-flail” feature installed on newer, Block A V-22s, said NavAir spokesman Ward Carroll. The Osprey involved in the June 28 incident was an earlier model that did not have the anti-flail feature.
The cost of the replacement regimen is unknown, he said, and all the new blowers that have been installed were spares already on hand.
The June incident was the latest in a series of minor mishaps in the Osprey program since the aircraft returned to flight in May 2002 after a major overhaul. The Corps plans to buy 360 V-22s — built by Bell Helicopter Textron and Boeing — to replace its fleet of Vietnam-era CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters.
Last year, an engine access door flew off a new V-22 during a ferry flight from the manufacturer’s assembly plant in Amarillo, Texas, punching a hole in the tail, and another Osprey lost part of a control flap that struck one of the rotor blades. Neither incident was deemed serious enough to cause changes to the testing program.
Nevertheless, critics say the Osprey is too complex and too unreliable to operate in the fleet.
Its checkered history, including two crashes in 2000 that killed 23 Marines and grounded the aircraft for a year and a half, has caused some to suggest a better alternative could be found with existing medium-lift helicopters.
But top Marine officials insist the V-22 is the only viable alternative with the speed, range and capability to suit their long-range strategic plans.