WASHINGTON – The commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps pledged Thursday to keep MV-22 Osprey flights over densely populated areas of Japan to a minimum amid the strong safety concerns over the tilt-rotor aircraft’s planned deployment to Okinawa.
“It is my intent that marine Osprey pilots will make every effort to minimize flying over heavily populated areas in Japan,” Gen. James Amos said in a statement.
Amid strong local resistance, the United States plans to begin full operations of the transport aircraft in early October at U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in a crowded neighborhood of Ginowan, Okinawa.
“As we look to the future, we are committed to forward deploying our strongest capabilities in the defense of our Japanese allies,” Amos said, referring to the U.S. plan to replace aging CH-46 choppers with MV-22s in Okinawa and elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region.
“As the senior pilot on active duty today in the U.S. military, I personally attest that there is no more definitive way to strengthen the aviation capability of our allied forces than to forward deploy these remarkably capable aircraft to the Asia-Pacific as soon as possible,” Amos said.
Noting he was briefed on speculation about the aircraft’s safety during a recent visit to Tokyo, Amos said he is “mindful” of concerns about its tilt-rotor technology, which allows Ospreys to take off and land vertically, following two recent crashes.
“As the commandant, I pledge to our partners, and to the Japanese people, that we will work with them to allay those concerns,” Amos said, adding he remains “confident in the aircraft’s safety.”
Meanwhile, the Marine Corps has concluded that multiple pilot errors resulted in the fatal crash of an MV-22 Osprey in April during training drills in Morocco, including a lack of knowledge about maneuvers to regain control of the aircraft, according to a copy of the final investigation report obtained Thursday by Kyodo News.
In that incident, the pilot make a 180-degree downwind at low altitude while transitioning the engine nacelles from vertical to forward flight — a situation pilots are instructed to avoid while hovering or during low-speed, low-level flights.
“The moment he started to transition was the moment he lost control of the aircraft,” the report concluded.