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EAA AirVenture Today is published by the Experimental Aircraft Association for EAA AirVenture from July 27 - August 3. It is distributed free on the convention grounds as well as other locations in Oshkosh and surrounding communities. Stories and photos are copyrighted 2008 by EAA AirVenture Today and EAA. Reproduction by any means is prohibited without written consent.


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The official daily newspaper of EAA AirVenture Oshkosh

Volume 9, Number 7 August 2, 2008     

‘Transformer’ Osprey brings the Marines
By Frederick A. Johnsen

The Marines’ MV-22 can be folded like a Transformer for stowage aboard ship, or to conserve hangar space. Pushing one button activates a computer program that automatically stows and unstows the complicated wing and rotor. Photo by Frederick A. Johnsen

A touch of a button folds its huge rotors and twists the wing 90 degrees on the Marine MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft at AirVenture 2008. The Marines delight in showing that Transformers-like quality to visitors. Then, on close inspection, visitors thump the fuselage and are surprised that it does not resonate like aluminum—it is composite structure. The Marines smile.

There’s a third thing the Marines would like AirVenture visitors to take away with them: The MV-22 Osprey is a safe, combat-tested airplane. Following media coverage years ago, an impression lingers that this airplane crashes. Staff Sgt. M.A. Rivera, a maintenance controller for the Ospreys of Marine Squadron VMM-266, says unequivocally: "We got the bugs worked out." He said the MV-22 of today is very reliable. The operational Ospreys are Block-B aircraft, incorporating changes over those pre-Block-A Ospreys that made the evening news by crashing. "I can sleep on the plane, no problem," Rivera offers.

Osprey pilot Capt. Ahron Oddman enthusiastically endorses the safety of the MV-22 he flies. A believer in tilt-rotor development, he says: "It’s a revolutionary aircraft…the tilt-rotor 10 years from now is going to blow this out of the water."

Oddman, Rivera, and other Marines accompanied the MV-22 on its flight from Jacksonville, North Carolina. Next month, the entire squadron departs for Iraq for eight to 10 months as another Marine squadron rotates home. In Iraq, the Osprey is proving its worth as a transporter of 24 combat troops, cargo, and sling loads. With a two-point fore-and-aft sling, 10,000 pounds can be hefted beneath the Osprey—that’s a third of the aircraft’s dry weight.

The composite molded skin of the Osprey has some bonded stiffeners visible inside the Spartan fuselage; other belt frames—also of composite material—are riveted to the skin. The use of composites saves weight while making the MV-22’s radar signature smaller than that of a metal airplane, the Marines say.

The Osprey can take off and land vertically. With heavy loads, rolling takeoffs and landings with the engine pods canted forward at a ground-clearing angle are used, Rivera explains. Once up and in full forward flight, the big-rotored Osprey can clip along at 240 knots. "In airplane mode, there is a small vibe," he says of the Osprey’s operating vibrations. This turns to a "hard vibe" during transition to or from vertical flight, and back to a small vibe in helicopter flight.

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