5 injured in Osprey crash in Florida Panhandle

NAVARRE, Fla. (AP) – All
five airmen aboard an Air Force CV-22 Osprey were hospitalized after the
tilt-rotor aircraft with a checkered safety record crashed in the
Florida Panhandle, but none of the injuries were life-threatening,
military officials said Thursday.

The Osprey, which can take
off and land like a helicopter but has wings for level flight, went down
Wednesday shortly before sunset in a remote area of Eglin Air Force
Base's sprawling reservation north of Navarre, said Airman 1st Class
Michelle Vickers at nearby Hurlburt Field, where the Air Force Special
Operations Command is headquartered.

Col. Jim Slife, commander
of Hurlburt's 1st Special Operations Wing, said his unit's efforts are
focused on supporting its injured airmen and their families.

“This particular mission
was a gunnery training mission, so it was a two aircraft formation out
performing gunnery,” Slife said at a news conference. “When the lead
aircraft turned around in the gun pattern, they did not see their
wingman behind them so they started a brief search and found they had
crashed right there on the range.”

The aircraft was found
upside down and caught fire but did not burn entirely, the Northwest
Florida Daily News of Fort Walton Beach reported. The aircraft is one of
25 Ospreys in the Air Force Special Operations Command.

“Some of the individuals who were injured were airlifted out, but others were taken out by ambulance,” Vickers said.

Maj. Brian Luce, one of the
pilots, and Tech. Sgt. Christopher Dawson, a flight engineer, were
listed in stable condition at Eglin's hospital.

Capt. Brett Cassidy, the
second pilot, and Tech. Sgt. Edilberto Malave, a flight engineer, also
were in stable condition at Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola. Staff
Sgt. Sean McMahon, a flight engineer, was in guarded condition at Sacred

The Eglin reservation
covers 724 square miles, about two-thirds the size of Rhode Island. It
is mostly forest but also includes swamps, streams, clearings and remote

An Air Force board will
investigate to determine the cause of the crash, which happened just two
months after a Marine Corps version of the aircraft, an MV-22 Osprey,
went down during a training exercise in Morocco. Two Marines were killed
and two others severely injured in that crash.

Earlier this month, the
military put plans on hold for briefly deploying Marine Ospreys to a
city in Japan after local officials objected due to the aircraft's
safety record.

An Air Force version was
the first Osprey to crash in Afghanistan in April 2010, killing three
service members and a civilian contractor. Ospreys went into service
with the Marines and Air Force in 2006. The Marines began using them in
Iraq the following year.

The Osprey initially was
developed for the Marines to replace transport helicopters. It can carry
24 troops and fly twice as fast as comparable assault helicopters while
retaining the ability to hover. Twin engines with large, 38-foot
diameter propellers mounted on the wing tips tilt up for taking off and
landing. Each aircraft is priced at about $70 million.

The Air Force version is
equipped with a missile defense system, terrain-following radar, a
forward-looking infrared sensor and other electronic gear that enable it
to avoid detection and defend itself on special operations missions
over enemy territory.

The Osprey was nearly canceled several times during its lengthy development due to cost overruns and safety questions.

Nineteen Marines were
killed in 2000 when an Osprey crashed during a training exercise in
Arizona. Another MV-22 crashed in North Carolina, killing four Marines,
in December of that year.

When former Vice President
Dick Cheney was defense secretary, he tried to kill the program in 1989,
saying the aircraft wasn't needed, but the Marines persuaded Congress
to keep it going.


Information from: Northwest Florida Daily News, http://www.nwfdailynews.com


Information from: Northwest Florida Daily News, http://www.nwfdailynews.com

2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not
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