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.
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.
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.