An anonymous reader pointed me to this link of an article reporting on the MV-22 crash in
in May 2015 (1).
I thank him for the heads up and suggestion to write a post. Hawaii
To refresh your memory, an MV-22, one of a flight of two, attempted an initial landing which resulted in a complete brownout due to dust, hovered for a period of time at an altitude of perhaps 30 ft, rose, hovered again, and then dropped straight down to the ground. Two Marines were killed and 20 injured.
The incident report lays the blame on pilot error despite the pilots violating no rules or guidelines, command error for not selecting a better landing site, and command error for the poor emergency response to the crash. Punishments have been recommended for many personnel associated with the exercise. The report and the findings are straightforward as those things go but utterly fail to address the more important warfighting lessons to be learned. In other words, the incident was investigated as a peacetime, commercial flight incident rather than a combat training incident.
|Crash Film - Note the Brownout Conditions and Engine Flameout|
As a combat training incident, the main lesson should be that the MV-22 is ill-suited to combat landings. The MV-22 made a very slow descent and approach before any dust was generated. This offers enemy gunners an excellent opportunity to target and shoot the aircraft. Comparing this approach to flims of
era helo landings reveals the difference in speed
and aggressiveness of approach and landing.
helo landings were high speed, compact, and aggressive with a last moment flair
to settle. The landing process took a
fraction of the time that the MV-22 landing does. The longer the landing time, the greater the
vulnerability of the aircraft. Viet
I’m not an MV-22 pilot but it appears that the initial approach got the aircraft to within 10 ft or so of the ground with less than total brownout conditions. Had the pilot simply continued the landing, even blind, for 10 more feet the result would have been a safe landing. The decision to stop and pull back up is what doomed the flight. Once you’ve reached 10 ft, just continue straight down and the worse that can happen is a slightly bumpy landing. Taking off again may be a problem but the landing could have been accomplished. Again, I’m speculating as a non-pilot so take this for what it’s worth.
Some might say that this was a peacetime landing and that in war the MV-22 landings will be considerably faster and more aggressive. If true, then why are we practicing techniques we won’t use in combat? Train like you fight, fight like you train, right? That said, everything I’ve read about MV-22 combat landings suggests that this type of slow, spread out landing is our tactical plan for combat and it’s due to the inherent limitations of the aircraft. The MV-22 appears ill-suited to effective combat landings.
The next lesson is that, contrary to faulting the command elements for not pre-surveying the landing site and selecting a safer one, acknowledgement must be made that, in combat, landing sites can’t generally be pre-surveyed. You pick a site and go with it, good or bad. A total abort is always an option but few sites are going to offer perfect landing characteristics. If the assault aircraft can’t handle the variety of landing conditions that combat might reasonably dictate, then the aircraft is ill-suited to the role. Is the MV-22 limited to only “perfect” landing spots? If so, that severely limits the aircraft's usefulness.
I urge you to read the article but read it from a combat perspective rather than a civilian mishap perspective.
As an aside, the recommended disciplinary measures against a wide variety of personnel including a fair amount of the chain of command is interesting. I'll watch to see whether the same punishment zealousness accompanies the Iranian seizure of our boats which I view as a much more serious offense.
(1)Military.com, “Billows of Dust, a Sudden 'Pop' and an
from the Sky”, Hope Hodge Seck, Osprey Falls Jan 29, 2016,