Saturday, August 29, 2009

Flock of Ospreys

I think it'd be pretty hard to find a modern military aircraft that's stirred up more controversy than the V-22 Osprey. Sure, the F-22 is expensive and much of its role arguably obsolete, but it's still the best damn air superiority fighter in the world.

The Osprey, on the other hand, seems to be one teething problem after another. Engine exhaust that warps unprepared decks and lights landing zone foliage on fire. HIGE (Hovering in Ground Effect) issues when operating aboard ship with one engine over the side. Numerous crashes during its development phase that killed nearly two dozen people. Mechanical and maintenance problems caused by a lack of parts. Public relations disasters in many areas of its deployment, from falsified maintenance records to massive cost overruns. It hasn't lived up to its promised range and speed requirements.

Nonetheless, I'll admit: I'm a fan of the airplane, or at least its concept. When pushing aside the logistics, costs, and general public relations issues, the aircraft is a marvel of engineering. Unlike many other bloggers who hope it fails and want the U.S. to buy up a ton of modernized CH-53s or CH-47s, I'd actually like to see it succeed. The last I've heard its situation appears to be improving, with its deployment ships learning how best to operate their new toy.

Until today, I'd only seen one before in real life. In 2007, I took a Caribbean Carnival cruise out of Fort Lauderdale. The FLL Air & Sea show was in full swing as we were getting ready to depart. The USS Kearsarge (LHD-3) pulled into Port Everglades and docked right beside us, right in front of my balcony. On her deck sat a V-22.

USS Kearsarge getting pushed into her berth.

V-22 Osprey onboard

V-22 getting maneuvered about by a tug with a Princess cruise ship leaving beyond it.

Well, this morning, I was running some errands near Pensacola Regional Airport. Driving past the main airport entrance, I happened to look left towards the terminal. Heliworks - our local helicopter FBO that sits next to the terminal - sometimes has odd aircraft over the weekend. I've seen CH-53s, CH-47s, CH-46s and other military hardware there before.

A gaggle of strange rotors and twin tails peeked up beyond the fence. What the...?

After a quick U-turn, I drove into the parking lot adjacent to Heliworks. And there I found five V-22s from Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron VMM-266. Odd aircraft indeed!

This is a perfect example of why I always keep a camera on me. I took a couple of panoramas and a bunch of standalone shots.

Five Ospreys of VMM-266

A Continental Express Beech 1900 taking off beyond.

Cloudy nose-on.

Ah! There's the sun.

Broad rotors.

Funny how dirty the engine nacelles are. These aren't exactly two decades old.

Rotors up.

Pilots from Navy Training Air Wing Five (TAW-5 NAS Whiting) tying down their H-57, with their (possible) future ride in the background.

That's our new TRACON to the right of the tower. Hopefully we'll be there in October.

It's funny; I wasn't the only one intrigued by these strange airplanes. I was there maybe ten minutes taking these shots, and no less than a dozen cars pulled up to admire the Ospreys. Parents with kids in tow, old ladies, photographer-types with long lensed cameras - a bizarre crossection of people, all fascinated by these aeronautical oddities.

8 comments:

Dave said...

You should transfer to ZAB or ABQ. The CV22 wing for training is at Kirtland AFB.

Brian said...

We had two come into DAL about a month or so ago, though the FBO said their was 12 or 13 coming. I bet they were disappointed in their fuel sales that day. Anyway, I was on Local when they came in one at a time. They did 200 knots to about a 3 or 2.5 mile final and then slowed it down. When the first one was over the numbers, the approach controller called over the line and asked - "Does that look pretty cool?" I answered yeah it does. Almost everyone in the cab was watching it land. The other one came in, nothing special just same as the first.

I was working ground control when they left, and they used the entire runway. It seemed like they used this to get a good forward speed going for their IFR flight.

There was a good joke made about the callsign for coordination, but I cannot find it on the net yet, so I won't talk about it.

Watching them depart was cool too, especially when the rotors made the transition to forward flight.

Wicked Penguin said...

@Dave: We have a CV-22 squadron based next door to us at Eglin AFB's Hurlburt Field. They're part of the USAF's 1st Special Operations Wing. We see them over here once in a while.

@Brian: That's awesome. I've yet to see one in the air.

They seem to do the Harrier-style takeoff when they can get away with it, angling the engine pods to provide both forward and vertical thrust. A little speed, a little lift on the wings and up they go. It's more efficient and they can carry a heavier load.

I tried flying one in Microsoft Flight Simulator. I'm sure the flight model was totally wonky in the sim, but it was a challenge to fly. Taking off was fine, but landing... I just couldn't get it to slow down!

Dave said...

Brian:
You should see the callsign of the CN235 (CN35 on the flight plan) we have flying out of MZJ lately. WOODY69. Enough said....

Anonymous said...

Hey, great blog! I used to work for Skywarrior, but not any longer. Keep us posted on all your tower/ TRACON FUN!

Anonymous said...

I appreciate you sharing your experience. I tried opening the pdf of the academy terminal airspace, but no dice... Here's the link : http://www.wickedpenguin.com/images/okc/AppAirspace_Condensed.pdf

If you'd help me out with it (directly or pointing me to another source,) I won't forget. Since it's (your past) not relevant to what you're currently blogging, I don't know how you'd prefer to reply either way, so if you'd drop me an email, I think that would be the least hassle and I'll definitely get it. Thanks again!
delemorganlove@yahoo.com

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