In a compromise, the United States and Japan agreed that MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor transport planes would be deployed in Japan, but would not be flown until ongoing reports into two recent accidents could confirm their safety. Worries about the safety of the plane—stemming from an accident in Morocco last April that killed two marines and another just two weeks ago in Florida—caused Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima, Yamaguchi Governor Sekinari Nii, Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto, and Foreign Minister Koichiro Genba to ask the US Military to call off deployment of the aircraft. This compromise comes after a meeting last week in which senior US Defense Department officials met with representatives from the Japanese government at the Pentagon to address those safety concerns.
In an official Host Nation Notification and in a press release, the US Defense Department said 12 of the MV-22s would arrive at the US Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Yamaguchi Prefecture at the end of July. The aircraft has an engine in each of its airplane-like wings that can rotate, allowing it to take off vertically, like a helicopter, but travel at airplane-like speeds. The hybrid airplane-helicopter aircraft is set to replace the Marine Corps’ aging fleet of CH-46 Sea Knight transport helicopters.
The US Defense Department said that it will “refrain from any flight operations of the MV-22 in Japan until the results of the investigation of the two recent accidents are presented to Japan and the safety of the operation is reassured,” in a press release. They also said that Japan is the only country world-wide in which MV-22 operations have been suspended. The US has been trying to bolster faith in the Osprey’s safety by assuring all interested parties that the two accidents were caused by human error, and not any mechanical or design problems with the aircraft.
In an unusual move, the Japanese Defense Ministry released an interim report from the US on the two accidents, probably hoping to ease the tensions of the public over the aircrafts deployment. The report said that the two accidents happened while the aircraft were shifting from helicopter to airplane mode, crashes may have had something to do with the Osprey’s main feature. It went on to say that the Osprey in Morocco crashed while flying at a low altitude with engines tilted forward with a tail wind, according to the Ministry this was an “unusual operation” and may have made the aircraft crash. The Ministry officials say that so far the findings of the investigation support the US’s prior claims that both crashes were caused by operational errors and not malfunction.
[Via Chicago Tribune]
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