National

U.S. report reveals cover-up of Osprey mishap in 2014

by Jon Mitchell

Special To The Japan Times

Details in a report recently obtained via the U.S. Freedom of Information Act suggest the U.S. Marine Corps misled the public about an incident involving one of its Osprey aircraft in 2014.

The investigation, released by the Naval Safety Center, Virginia, describes a mishap on June 26, 2014, in which a MV-22B Osprey aircraft was struck by lightning while flying from Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Yamaguchi Prefecture, to its home base at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Okinawa.

The strike, which occurred over the city of Kobayashi, Miyazaki Prefecture, burned the aircraft’s propeller blades and caused multiple failures to its onboard systems. None of the three crew members on board was injured and the aircraft was able to continue its flight to Futenma.

According to the report, damage to the aircraft was assessed at $286,627 and it was categorized by the military as a “Class C Mishap”, the second-lowest in its four-tier scale.

Initially, the U.S. Marine Corps did not make the incident public. However, following enquiries from Japanese media, the military announced in August 2014 that the lightning strike had occurred while the aircraft was parked on the runway of Futenma air base.

Also, the U.S. Marine Corps claimed there were no indications during the flight that the aircraft had been struck.

However, the accident report states the crew experienced the strike as “a bright flash with varying levels of turbulence.”

Moreover, the U.S. Marine Corps told reporters there had been no predictions of thunderstorms prior to the incident. This statement, too, is contradicted by the report, which states that both Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni and Kagoshima Airport, located near the Osprey’s flight path, had warned of thundery weather.

Explanations of why the pilot was granted permission to fly through such conditions were redacted by the Naval Safety Center from the report on the grounds that if such information was made public, it might inhibit investigators’ abilities to engage in “open, frank and honest discussion” about the cause of the incident.

On Jan. 12, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga explained at a news conference that he would seek clarification from the U.S. military regarding the circumstances of the mishap.

At the time of publication, the Pentagon had not provided comment for the issues raised in this article.

Last month, the crash of an Osprey off the coast of Nago, Okinawa Prefecture, reignited public fears about the safety of the aircraft. The U.S. military resumed flights six days later.

The cause of the accident, which occurred during a night-time refueling drill, has not yet been determined.