SLUG: 6-12218 Osprey Constroversy DATE: NOTE NUMBER:











INTRO: For more than a decade, the United States Marine Corps has been developing a revolutionary new airplane to replace its aging helicopters. Called the Osprey, the new aircraft is a tiltwing. That means it can land and take off like a helicopter, but then tilt its engines forward and fly, like a conventional aircraft, faster and farther than a helicopter. There is only one problem.

But, there are problems. The V-22 Osprey, as it is officially known, has crashed four times, killing 30 people, since being put into limited service.

Now the aircraft is the subject of a heated Pentagon debate that has spilled over into the editorial pages of American newspapers. We get a sampling from ___________ in today's U-S Opinion Roundup.

TEXT: A front page report in Tuesday's (2/27) Los Angeles Times newspaper says the Osprey aircraft has had seven previously unreported mechanical failures during the past two-and-one-half years. It says that at least some of them, including major hydraulic leaks and two engine fires, could have caused other planes to crash, although none did. But the Times report suggests "the Osprey's problems are more serious than those experienced by other military aircraft during development and that its safety record is worse than previously disclosed."

We begin our sampling with the San Antonio (Texas) Express-News, which is upset by revelations that some tests normally given to new aircraft had been avoided with the Osprey.

VOICE: The Marine Corps decision to omit some tests on the Osprey aircraft was unconscionable. A General Accounting Office (G-A-O) report ... revealed that the tests might have provided information on rapid descents that could have helped avoid the deaths of 19 Marines in a crash last year. ... The Osprey appears to have been pushed into production before it was ready and before military officials knew if it was suitable for service.

TEXT: The Kansas City (Missouri) Star is also upset.

VOICE: The Osprey ...can carry more troops farther and faster than existing Marine Corps helicopters. If its problems can be solved, then Marine units will be able to reach trouble spots more quickly and with more equipment. Unfortunately, the Marine Corps has been conducting what amounts to a clinic in how to destroy credibility.

TEXT: In Ohio, The (Akron) Beacon Journal laments:

VOICE: The G-A-O examination found that test restrictions and waivers have prevented gaining a realistic view of what the Osprey can do. The report wonders whether the cabin is too small, the hydraulic system too sensitive. Better testing would seem essential...

TEXT: The Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania) Post-Gazette publishes a column by Luke Warren, media director for the Council for a Livable World Education Fund. He says the plane is "a military spending boondoggle that hurts national security."

VOICE: It was revealed last week that the Marines and Bell/Textron, the maker of the V-22 Osprey ... canceled some crucial tests during the development of the aircraft. Combined with the maintenance cover-up scandal and the Osprey's two crashes last year that killed 23 Marines, the controversial Osprey is an endangered bird once again. However, these new revelations simply add more proof to what is an open and shut case. The V-22 should be terminated. ... Will the administration have the prescience and fortitude to once again attempt to kill one of the military's biggest boondoggles?

In 1989, Vice President Dick Cheney, then secretary of defense, tried to terminate the program due to its rising cost and only incremental improvements in its capabilities compared to the helicopters it would replace. Three years later, Congress put money back into the program and threatened (then Secretary) Cheney with a lawsuit if he tried to kill it again.

... At 83-million dollars-a-piece, the aircraft offers only limited operational improvements over the Marine's current transport helicopters. ... Whatever the reason, the fact remains that the Osprey is a death-trap. ... As a matter of principle, Americans should not be hoodwinked (fooled) into spending 36-billion dollars for a weapons system that needs lies, or canceled tests ... to keep it alive.

TEXT: In Cleveland, Ohio, the Plain Dealer adds these editorial misgivings.

VOICE: The Osprey ... is particularly susceptible to an aerodynamic phenomenon called "vortex ring state."[V-R-S] It essentially gets caught in its own downwash and slams to the ground. The more vertical the maneuver, the greater the risk. Ostensibly to save money and to keep the lagging program on schedule, only a third of the planned tests of the Osprey were flown and trials particularly critical to the V-R-S problem were not flown at all.

Further, the Pentagon inspector general's office is investigating allegations that records of what testing was done, were falsified. And another special panel of experts is reviewing the Osprey's record of four crashes, two with multiple fatalities. So, why has this inadequate aircraft already consumed 15 years of protective testing and 12-billion dollars in development costs? Because the Marines want it, and the Marines have devoted their considerable political energy into preserving it...

TEXT: With that comment, we conclude this sampling of editorial U-S newspaper editorial comment on the Osprey, the controversial new Marine tiltwing aircraft.