NASA recommends further tests for V-22
22 November 2001
By Henry Wilson, DSD's contributing reporter
An independent NASA assessment has concluded that the troubled V-22 programme should continue, despite the number of fatal crashes that has led to the project being halted for almost a year, and advocated more testing for the experimental craft. The V-22 Osprey has the capability to take-off and land like a helicopter but is also able to fly as a turboprop aircraft by rotating its wingtip-mounted engines. The US Marine Corps has been a strong supporter of the new aircraft as the next-generation of aircraft for delivering troops into the combat zone.
The US Navy commissioned NASA to explore the effect of tiltrotor aeromechanics phenomena that might adversely impact the safety or the performance of the V-22, with particular focus on vortex ring state and autorotation. At least one of the four crashes has been attributed to the effects of vortex ring state.
Despite concerns voiced as to the safety of the V-22 in the light of the fatal crashes, the panel found that there were no known aeromechanics phenomena that would stop the safe and orderly development and deployment of the aircraft. It advocated that the project should be resumed without delay and that many of the problems could be ironed out as the testing programme worked towards its conclusion. The Executive Summary stated: "With appropriate test build-up, procedures, and identified recovery techniques, it is believed that it will be safe to conduct the planned flight tests. Consequently, the Panel recommends that the development flight test programme be resumed without delay, and it fully endorses the proposed Integrated Test Team Flight Test Program."
This endorsement will come as a huge relief to Bell and Boeing who have been working on the development of the V-22 since 1982. Furthermore, the findings of the panel will be a boon to the Pentagon who are expecting the craft to supply the needs of the US Marines in particular. Indeed the panel's conclusions were influenced in no small part by the considerations of a number of the test pilots who recommended that the Osprey be introduced at the earliest possible opportunity.
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