Sound Off: Would You Feel Safe in an Osprey?

Osprey in flight

Osprey in flight

Would you feel safe in an Osprey? Most U.S. Marines would probably say no. In a tragic moment of vindication, on May 15th an MV-22 Osprey flying in Hawaii made a hard landing which killed one Marine and sent 21 others to the hospital. Pervasive among comments of respect for the fallen and injured Marines is a tangible frustration with the Osprey’s safety and reliability.

The tiltrotor aircraft’s troubled history stretches back to its initial development. During the testing process from 1991 to 2000, pilots suffered a total of 30 fatalities. After going into service, the Osprey developed a reputation for unreliability after a series of high profile crashes.

However, experts say that the Osprey isn’t nearly as unsafe as it appears. According to Loren Thompson, an analyst at the Lexington Institute, the Osprey does not have an unusually high number of accidents despite perception to the contrary. With a total of 223,000 flight hours under its belt, the Osprey has a mishap rating of 3.2 per 100,000 flight hours. That doesn’t include any accident, but ones involving loss of life or damage exceeding $2 million.

To put that in perspective, the CH-46 Sea Knight, a Marine Corps helicopter in service since the 1960s, has a mishap rate of 2.98 per 100,000 flight hours. In other words, statistically speaking the Osprey is only .22 times more likely to suffer a mishap than the Sea Knight.

Is the Osprey really an unsafe machine, or do the numbers speak for themselves: would you feel safe in an Osprey? Sound off!

  • mkantzler

    Unlike the Marine vertical-takeoff-and-landing (VTOL) version of the F35 and the Harrier, where a constant, downward-thrust vector is present during vertical maneuvers, the Osprey relies entirely upon a variable vector from horizontal to vertical flight, making it the most difficult to master of all vertical-flight-regime aircraft, including helicopters.

    I believe that a majority of accidents, and a higher percentage when compared to other VTOL aircraft, are due to pilot error, and this is probably due to training programs that do not meet the Osprey’s more demanding control requirements. A review and tweaking of the Osprey’s training requirements, and some operational restrictions, would probably bring its incident record more in line with other VTOL aircraft.

    • Micah

      Awesome commentary

    • Craig

      Dead on assessment!

    • C martin

      I’ve been flying helicopters for 46+ years, and I would not want to fly in a V-22.

      • AlecX

        That’s probably a good thing. This may seem counter-intuitive, but fixed-wing pilots who have transitioned to the V-22 have had a safer flight record than helicopter pilots who have transitioned to it.

        Quoted from a V-22 pilot:
        “I still have never flown a helicopter, don’t have a single minute of helicopter flying time, but if I can come from a (fighter jet) and have no problems hovering this airplane, then it’s a pretty darn stable airplane,” this pilot said. “Fixed wing pilots almost have an easier time coming in because in a helicopter you’re always working, always working. This is all (helicopter pilots) know. We (fixed-wing pilots) actually hover (in the Osprey) better than a lot of helicopter pilots because the helicopter pilots have it ingrained in them, ‘I’m in a hover; I’ve got to be making corrections.’ So they’re constantly moving the controls when they don’t necessarily need to.”

    • Leon Suchorski

      The Marine Corps, basically had the “same” problems with the Harrier. The first pilots were specially selected for the program, and flew it well. So well that the Marine Corps got over confident with the ease of flying it, and added new pilots who had crash problems. Once they figured out what the problem was, namely training, they had it licked.

  • Vietnam Vet

    Currently, I would not feel safe flying in the Osprey. The idea is good but it seems to be a difficult machine to fly. The critical time seems to be when it is going from regular plane to a rotary or helo mode and vise-versa. Seems like the Osprey is very un-forgiving at the slightest pilot error. Like the B-2 Spirit, also known as the Stealth Bomber, may need computer assisted control to keep it flying safely, especially during transition modes.

    • CH-46A crew chief

      I’d fly in the Osprey, heck I have over 3500 hours crew-chiefing 46-A’s to D’s. I was in the A’s in Nam when they were doing their fore and aft individual landing modes (breaking in half). You always get the bad news from the media because good news doesn’t sell! What about all the missions the 22 has been on doing relief and assistance that the media hasn’t talked about? I’ll take the odds of 4 to 100,000 anytime. Hell, I took the 3 to 100,000 odds plus Charlie shooting at us and survived (more or less). Quit your whining and suck it up…..

      • Leon Suchorski

        The media wants nothing but 100% safe aircraft, and you will never have that. There will always be a percentage that have mechanical problems, or weird weather, or simply pilot error. We fly with those same odds on commercial aircraft every day.

    • Earl Dixon Jr

      I agree with the dangers involved in the Osprey’s “transitional” phase(s). Also keep in mind that another sign of an aircraft’s “reliability” is when it can be depended upon despite ‘less than perfect’ (or even favorable) maintenance on the ground, as well as conditions of flight. As a former soldier with the 173rd Airborne Brigade (3rd Herd) and a Marine with 1st Battalion 5th Marines (Camp Pendleton), I sure would have been nervous flying out to the USS Belleau Wood in an Osprey.

  • Don P Vet

    This freakin aircraft has too many moving parts to go wrong as well as too many moving parts to coordinate. This thing should have been scrapped in it’s infancy. As procurement of aircraft goes these days it will more than likely have a short life. I would not fly on it nor allow my sons to fly on it. It’s a death trap waiting to happen. I am not an aviator but have followed the development of this aircraft and since the beginning it has said “No Don’t Build Me I Will Kill To Many Of My Passengers Regardless Of Cause, Whether Me or the Pilots”.

    • V22 flight mech

      All you ignorant people out there that has never flown in a helicopter and claim to know alot about the V22 just cuz you followed the program should stop commenting as if you’re an expert. If the public knew exactly what the truth behind some of the accidents that happened with the V22 they would fond some other reason to open their mouths and criticize everything with no solid research or insight when it comes to aviation. Consider the facts…the idea of a helicopter and how it flies is complicated. Yes the V22 has alot of moving parts and its a strange aircraft. But when u consider the mount of moving parts and compare it to the chinook and how often it has fallen off a boat in the ocean full of Marines..its turns out the V22 isn’t that bad of an aircraft. In addition, I dont see any other aircraft that can do what a V22 can do. Distance and speed is the advantage. When u need to get in and out quick and far away….a V22 is the answer.

  • I don’t know if I’d feel any more ‘unsafe’ in the Osprey than I would in a chopper for instance. I know nothing of flight but it does seem to me the Osprey is a pretty complicated machine with lots of moving parts….and moving parts often fail as to the pilots running those parts.

  • ch46 crew dog

    I do not see any problems with the MV-22 Osprey, other than the people that do not like the aircraft. If you look at the stats, the Osprey is a safe aircraft. Take the teething problems that the Marine Corps had with the CH-46, and any other aircraft that has been developed for the military. Look at all aircraft even civilian, they all have mishaps and you hear nothing about them, unless the press can sensationalize the problem to increase their ratings.

  • Bruce

    Numbers do not speak for themselves, you can make numbers say “what you want them to say” How many deaths have happened from testing till now?

    • Craig

      It would only be fair then to assess how many lives the Osprey has potentially saved because it can beat the helicopter to the LZ everytime. More training time in the seats for the pilots to get use to this beast is the answer

  • rudyh39

    Suggest you U-tube the Dornier Do-31….(yeh from last century)…lose the dinosauric rotor system and sub. with the gimballed turbojet thrusters that perform very well…view the vid…Joint DeutscheAmerikaner project…..nimrod politicians ended a decent acft program..

  • mavricxx

    I can personally tell you this aircraft is unreliable as hell and getting parts from DEPOT/vendors is a pain in the behind! I don’t know why we keep throwing money at this piece of garbage!

  • 206UE

    Yes I’d feel safe. Flying in any aircraft is a risk. I’ve seen them fly over my house, they didn’t crash.

  • baldprisonguard

    My daughters fellow Marines, shipmates actually passed in the above mentioned incident, In fact the Aircrew Chief was a buddy of hers. When we came off River City, I had a chance to speak with her. Although she was deeply saddened by the passing of her friends and fellows, she indicated she had no reservation flying in one of those birds. If she has confidence in that bird, so do I.

  • Jason Price

    I’m wondering if the stats for the ch46 is Canada’s Sea King, which has had a lot of problems..but its old. Maybe another comparison is needed, or ch46 stats from first 10-20 yes of service. 32 pilots killed is striking

  • fulmar

    3.2/100K versus 2.98/100K. Of course the figures for CH-46 are from over 40 years of operation whereas the MV-22 has now been operational for ten (?). So the numbers would be more accurate if you compared CH-46 rate in Vietnam to MV-22 in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is well know in the Aviation community that aircraft accident rates tapper off as the aircraft matures. If the MV-22 has one of the lowest accident rates where is the laser focus on getting ride of the aircraft with higher class A rates?

  • Jerry

    Of course I would. I trust my work and the work the others performed.

  • Michael

    I don’t know whether I would feel safe or not. But I am wondering about it’s inception. I seems (and I am aging myself) I read about the osprey in a weekly reader when I was in school. I took a long time for technology to catch up with it idea. Maybe like all other vehicles they will continue to get safer.

  • fhsmct

    As a former military pilot, these “pilot error” cries are contiually dishearening

    The Osprey was rushed into service with known issues and the members of the initial fielding unit(s) paid a price therefore, careerwise and, in some case, physically.

    I recall when pilot error was declared the cause in a number of Army UH-60 “incidents” when, in fact, the problem was the Army opted not to buy shielded wiring and thus the acft were suseptable to uncommanded dives when operating in the vicinity of high powered radar.

    Uncommanded dives, at NOE, essentially unrecoverable and usually end up validating that basic law of physics that states that two objects can not occupy the same space at the same time.

    Who got the blame: the pilots. . . .

  • daddykooljim

    I wouldn’t feel safe in any helicopter let alone an Osprey, the latest one of which just had an engine explode in mid-flight.

  • CP 5811

    April 9, 2000… Myself and 19 other Marines would vote no. This plane is a flying disaster. Unfortunately, the other 19 are deceased. A training exercise flight that crashed. I was supposed to be on that plane but God had other plans for me and duty called me away from this flight. It still haunts me to this day…Memorial Day 2015…I mourn for these fallen Marines. Semper Fidelis Brothers

    Sgt. C. P.
    Military Police
    MCAS Yuma, AZ

  • Mean gene

    After 20 yrs around the ch-53 why not
    Continue with them. What a work horse plus
    They proved themselves over and over
    The osprey is only a little faster but more
    Technically to have a major malfunctions
    Than the other.

    • 68usmcvet

      NOPE, I would NOT fly in one.

  • BAO


  • Richard w bartlett

    The 46’s had way more trouble than osprey it was coming apart I the air check there accident reports and the army had ar15’s along time before we did they also why did we get the weapon before the fix. Rick Bartlett

  • The number of troops and sorties flown far out weigh any and all accidents and mishaps that have occurred. I am a former USAF Enlisted airman and have flown in many military aircraft, fixed wing and rotor. Although I have not flown in an Osprey, ( knowing it is not a Air Force aircraft), the quality of the pilots across all branches and aircraft is unequalled world wide. I would trust the Osprey to get me there and back.

    • V22 flight Mech

      FyI the Airforce does have a V22 its calles the CV22. Check it out.

  • Paul

    I’d go up in an Osprey as long as I could keep one foot on the ground.

  • Ralf

    Very good analysis

  • Win T

    I was a loadmaster on C130s during Vietnam and I am retired from the facility that manufactures the Osprey engines. I would jump at the chance to ride in one. However, it does sound like they need to do a little better with pilot training.

  • OhNavVet

    As a grandparent of a current MV22B pilot I am aware of the triple-computer backup arrangement
    and the dual rotor capability on a single engine. This is not the same craft of two decades ago.
    It is extremely trustworthy. Of course, pilot training is always of utmost importance. I would definitely feel safe.

  • Chuck

    If you look at the overall numbers comparing the OV-22 to the CH-46, the incident issues are a toss up. The main issue that nobody has addressed, is that the OV-22 can get Marines to the fight a lot faster than the CH-46 can.

  • Craig

    Every new technology we’ve fielded has had issues. The F-111 suffered a number of incidents caused by pilots not being used to the aircraft and the new systems. The Osprey is a significant step forward in aviation technology. Since the early accidents during it development and testing, there have been a lot of flight hours with these aircraft that were accomplished without incident. Aviation in general is hazardous, military aviation is especially dangerous. All of the aircrews understand that and are willing to accept the risks.

  • C9O5

    After spending a year in Helmand Province flying on the V-22 almost on a daily basis as a passenger I can tell I have no issue flying on the aircraft. After talking with the crews, some of which also flew the CH-46, they also were confident in their aircraft. The capability of this aircraft is far above what the 46 was able to do. The majority of the people I hear criticizing this aircraft are those who have never flown on it. Aviation is a dangerous environment, aviation in combat scenarios are even more dangerous with a fluid environment.

  • Super Tex

    Very safe………………..Particularly in a war zone, it flies much fast than a Blackhawk. And much newer than most Chinooks.

  • Hank Barrett

    The first time I got on a helicopter it was an old CH-34 I think, but anyway the crewcheif told us that if anything fell of the airceaft to hold on to it and give it to him when we got off. I hope things have improved over the years. Semper Fi

  • Gary Weidman

    I feel safest in a General Aviation aircraft that you actually have to fly. I would not feel safe in an Osprey or even a new Boeing or Airbus. Why? Because the pilots do not actually fly them, computers and sensors do the flying. I rode with a, just retired American Airlines pilot from Miami to LAX about fifteen years ago. The time of computers instead of hand flying was beginning. He was very worried about what was about to happen. He said he always hand flew on take off and landing, where his younger contemporaries were losing their flying skills.

  • Above Average Joe

    I’m no pilot (not even aircrew) but I did get some stick time on a osprey flight simulator that junior osprey pilot in training use before operating the actual thing. With no handicaps or assistance from the flight engineer controlling the show, I was able to hover, transition from helicopter to aircraft mode and back, and had two successful landings (one in brown out conditions) without any issues. The aircraft isn’t hard to fly, it just hard to keep good situational awareness when you are so task saturated with systems monitoring, and cautions/advisories all while watching what’s going on outside. Again, I’m no pilot, but I would have no issues flying in it.

  • g_dawlton

    I was fortunate enough to be transported from Fallujah to Baghdad by an Osprey. Loved the experience and would jump at another opportunity if ever I get the chance. I will say that they are an awfully loud aircraft, so don’t fly without utilizing your hearing protection…