Bodycount Continues to Rise for Military’s Favorite Whirligig

The United States Air Force has grounded its fleet of V-22 Osprey aircraft a week after a fatal crash involving 8 Special Operations Command servicemen off the coast of Japan.

In the past, controversies regarding clutch issues have plagued the design, giving those wary of the type’s fairly bloody history an understandable track to push back against claims of pilot error. The last 2 years have been particularly brutal to the Osprey community, with the aircraft being involved in 4 crashes that took 20 lives overall. Since its initial release, the type had claimed 5 lives just from flight testing and training – not including the most recent crash, which could ultimately nudge that number closer to 60. Some in the service have tried to cheerlead the Osprey, pulling out statistics on mishaps per flight hour to state that it’s not all that dangerous compared to older helicopters in military use. That misses a vital aspect of the distaste for the Osprey, however – it’s one thing to die in a pilot-induced mishap, and something else entirely when it’s the result of ineffable, unpreventable machine failure.

The USAF isn’t saying exactly what they believe happened yet (likely holding out hope they can blame this one too on pilot error), but the Navy and Marine Corps similarly grounded hundreds of their own Ospreys when a preliminary investigation into recovered wreckages seemed to indicate material failure. Japan did the same, possibly due to local insistence on the matter. The “standdown”, always a more polite term than “grounding”, will reportedly last long enough to “provide time and space for a thorough investigation to determine causal factors and recommendations to ensure the Air Force CV-22 fleet returns to flight operations.”