Tue. Jul 23rd, 2024

Congress says Pentagon is not providing key info in investigation of fatal Osprey crashes

By 37ci3 Jun12,2024

Congressional investigators say the military’s six-month investigation into the crash of the Osprey plane was stymied by Pentagon officials who refused to release critical safety investigation reports.

Rep. Glenn Grothman, chairman of the House Oversight Committee’s national security subcommittee, said, “It is imperative that the Department of Defense provide this information to understand the root causes of these fatal accidents and to ensure the safety of the US servicemen and women who board these aircraft.”

The subcommittee launched the investigation after 20 service members died in four separate Osprey crashes in less than two years. leaving grieving families demanding answers on why twin-rotor aircraft crash so often.

Three Pentagon officials will face questions from subcommittee members during a hearing Wednesday morning on Capitol Hill, and families of those killed in the crashes plan to attend.

Debris is scattered on the ground
Debris at the crash site of a twin-rotor Osprey aircraft.USMC

They reached their home in New Mexico, Michelle and Wayland Strickland, who lost their son, Lance Cpl. In the June 2022 Marine Osprey crash in California, Evan Strickland said they planned to fly to Washington overnight to arrive in time for the hearing.

“I would say that we hope this is the beginning of a real overhaul of the problems that have plagued the Osprey platform over the years, and hopefully it will lead to safety for those who use it in the future,” said Wayland Strickland.

In a prepared statement, Grothman said, “Since the V-22 entered service, it has been involved in numerous training accidents resulting in the deaths of more than 50 service members. These incidents have highlighted serious concerns about the safety and reliability of the Osprey, earning it the disturbing nickname ‘the widow.'”

In joint testimony filed before the hearing, Vice Adm. Carl Cheby, commander of Naval Air Systems Command, and Gary Kurtz, program executive officer for the Pentagon’s Air, Anti-Submarine Warfare, Offensive and Special Missions Programs, said the rate of serious accidents for the Osprey is “more than the Navy’s , has the full attention and support of USMC and USAF leadership. They wrote that they are focused on “solving this problem with the clear understanding that there is still much work to be done.”

Class A accidents, meaning those that result in permanent disability, death of a service member, or at least $2.5 million in damage to the aircraft, are the most serious category of military accidents.

In recent years, the number of accidents in the Osprey A class has increased.

In 2020 and 2021, Class A had two accidents, but no fatalities. According to military data reviewed by NBC News, there were 11 Class A accidents in 2022 and 2023, four of which were fatal.

Two investigations, a safety inquiry panel and a military accident investigation, are following the fatal incidents.

The Safety Investigation Board investigates the root cause of the accident and makes recommendations to prevent future accidents. The board issues a safety report.

Military accident investigations into fatal accidents are posted online and are available through Freedom of Information requests.

According to a former military accident investigator, Security Research Council reports have historically not been released.

The subcommittee says it was denied access to the Safety Investigation Board reports on the Osprey crashes because Pentagon officials said the reports were privileged.

“We have offered to review these security reports in a secure environment,” Grothman said, “yet the committee has been stonewalled and the department has provided no legal basis to withhold this information from the lawful scrutiny of Congress.”

House Oversight Committee staff say what they have received from the Pentagon so far is on par with what is already publicly known about the Osprey’s failures.

The Pentagon’s V-22 Joint Program Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the committee’s allegations.

A US military unit was found near the crash site of the Osprey
Wreckage from a US military CV-22 Osprey aircraft that crashed aboard a US military rescue ship near Yakushima Island in southwestern Japan on December 27, 2023.Kyodo via AP file

The most recent Osprey crash in Japan in November 2023 grounded all 386 Osprey aircraft in service between the Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps. Grounding continued from December to March, after that The military determined the plane was safe to return to limited flight. According to Pentagon officials, the plane flew for 7,000 hours after the landing was lifted. The Ospreys will not be fully operational until mid-2025, according to the statement.

Kurtz and Chebi note that the Japan Accident Safety Investigation Board determined that the cause of the accident was “a catastrophic aircraft mechanical failure never seen before in the V-22 fleet.”

NBC News informed In February, a Japanese investigation focused on the plane’s propeller rotor gearbox.

An investigation into the November accident in Japan and a separate accident investigation into the August accident in Australia are ongoing.

There are 4 families who lost their loved ones in the accident that happened in June 2022 sued Osprey manufacturers Boeing, Rolls-Royce and Bell-Textron are demanding answers to problems with the planes.

“We are pleased that Congress and members of this Committee are paying due attention to the safety of our service members who fly and rely on the V-22 Osprey,” said plaintiffs’ attorney Timothy Loranger, a Marine veteran, pilot and ex-serviceman. aircraft mechanic. “We hope this hearing will lead to a call for increased transparency by manufacturers about historical problems and current efforts to identify and address the root cause of recent accidents. Osprey crews and their families deserve reassurance that their beloved aircraft is safe and airworthy.”

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