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Wed, Aug 09, 2006

VMX-22 Makes History, ‘Ospreys’ Cross ‘The Pond’

Two MV-22B “Ospreys,” belonging to Marine Tiltrotor Test and Evaluation Squadron 22, made history last month by completing the first-ever Tiltrotor Vertical Assault Aircraft trans-Atlantic flights Saturday, July 29. The “Ospreys” successfully flew from North Carolina to England and back.

“The MV-22's ability to make two trans-Atlantic flights within a three week period, and fly every day in Great Britain during that time period confirms its reliability,” said Col. Glenn M. Walters, VMX-22 commanding officer.

“The aircraft and aircrew performed above my expectations in accomplishing the most arduous portion of a self-deployment. This was the final event that demonstrated the full range of unique capabilities this aircraft will provide to our war fighters in the near future."

The flight covered more than 4,000 miles, much of it over the North Atlantic, in challenging weather conditions. Both aircraft were conducting a self-deployment rehearsal in preparation for the “Osprey’s” operational deployment scheduled for next year. Over 40 Marines participated in the exercise, including pilots, aircrew and ground support personnel.

One of the Marines to pilot the trip was Maj. David L. Lane, an “Osprey” pilot since early 2004 and a Paris, Ark., native. Lane said it felt fantastic to pilot the mission and become a small part of history.

“Being a part of this mission was special and it felt great to have the commanding officer’s confidence placed in me to sign for the other aircraft,” said Lane.

An additional purpose of the rehearsal was for the Marine Corps to develop tactics, techniques and procedures for long-range, over-water movements of MV-22s. The “Ospreys” also participated in the Royal International Air Tattoo in Fairford and the Air Show at Farnborough, U.K.

While in England, the “Ospreys” flew a total of 17 flight events, all of which were executed on time. The “Osprey” was one of a handful of aircraft at Farnborough to have made all scheduled flight windows. These flights included distinguished visitor and media orientation flights involving short take-offs, tactical approaches to landing zones, hovering and a “jump” take-off. Additionally, it is estimated that 100,000 people viewed the aircraft on static display.

“The spectators in England were excited to see the ‘Osprey’ fly, and the flights were moved from one of the later slots in the air show to the main event,” said Lane.

The exercise began July 8 when three MV-22Bs from VMX-22 and three KC-130J “Hercules” aircraft from Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 252, based at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C., left the U.S. for Farnborough. After a stop in Goose Bay, Newfoundland, two MV-22Bs and two KC-130Js continued on to the U.K., while the other aircraft returned to North Carolina.

On July 25, all aircraft left the U.K. to redeploy back to North Carolina. All aircraft and crew safely returned home July 29.

This achievement helped to illustrate improved vertical lift capability for such concepts as Sea Basing and Distributed Operations, and greatly expands the reach and flexibility of Joint forces. VMX-22 and VMGR-252 also validated the “Osprey’s” long-range fuel system capability with the goal of supporting future “Osprey” deployments.

During VMX-22’s change-of-command ceremony, Lt. Gen. John Castellaw, deputy commandant of Marine Corps aviation, remarked on the success of the historic trans-Atlantic flight and how this brings the “Osprey” one giant step towards deployment sometime next year.

“This was a rehearsal to demonstrate the ‘Osprey’s’ capabilities and to learn lessons so when we do it again, for instance with (Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron-263) when it deploys next year, we’ll have already learned the basis to complete a similar flight,” said Castellaw. “The leadership of the Marine Corps and those that have been involved with the aircraft has had confidence that it could complete a mission like this all along.”

FMI: www.marines.mil

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