Monday, November 23, 2015

Marines: Sandy Conditions a Factor in Deadly Aircraft Crash

A hybrid aircraft that crashed in Hawaii this year, killing two Marines, flew in sandy or dusty conditions for an extended period before its engine stalled, the U.S. Marine Corps said Monday.

An investigation found the stalled left engine put the Bell/Boeing MV-22B Osprey in an unavoidable freefall, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific said in a news release.

The airplane-and-helicopter hybrid crashed at a military base outside Honolulu in May with 21 Marines and a Navy corpsman on board.

The pilots didn't violate any regulations or flight standards, the Marines said. But investigators found a proper risk assessment should have prompted the pilots to choose a different flight path or landing site to avoid dust or sand.

Investigators have recommended changes to help pilots make better decisions in similar situations.

One is to have the Osprey display engine performance and stall data. Another is to have the aircraft alert pilots when engine power declines below 95 percent. Investigators also want the military to improve the MV-22's engine air filtration systems.

The military has already made an interim change to training and operating procedures as a result of the accident, the Marine Corps said.

The Osprey is a tilt-rotor aircraft that can take off and land like a helicopter but flies like an airplane, which gives it a longer range than traditional helicopters.

The Osprey that crashed took off from the USS Essex, a Navy ship 100 miles offshore. It was en route to drop off infantry Marines for training when it crashed at Bellows Air Force Station on Oahu's eastern coast.

The aircraft was part of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit based in Camp Pendleton, California. It was visiting Hawaii for a week of training during a seven-month deployment to the Pacific and the Middle East.

The crash killed Lance Cpl. Matthew Determan, 21, of Ahwatukee, Arizona and Lance Cpl. Joshua Barron, 24, of Spokane, Washington.

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