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US military to resume V-22 Osprey operations after safety grounding

Safety concerns have kept the military's fleet of around 400 aircraft grounded for nearly three months.
Posted at 5:52 PM, Mar 03, 2024

The U.S. military will take its first step in getting its V-22 Osprey back in the skies. 

The news comes after Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin endorsed a plan for a measured return to operations. 

Safety concerns have kept the military's fleet of around 400 aircraft grounded for nearly three months following a deadly crash in Japan that killed eight U.S. service members. 

From March 2022 to November 2023, 20 U.S. service members have died in four Osprey crashes.

“We don't actually know the exact reasons why a number of these have crashed just because we haven't seen the investigation reports,” said Dan Grazier. 

Grazier is a former Marine and defense analyst at the nonprofit watchdog dog group “Project on Government Oversight.” 

He says that until comprehensive accident reports are released about these mishaps and tragedies, it'll be difficult to pinpoint a root cause. 

However, he says, upon studying previous reports, he did notice something of concern. 

“I read a report from just about two years ago that air force pilots were averaging just a little bit over 10 hours a month, which is a big problem, and going back and looking through some of the older investigation reports from earlier crash incidences, you find out that the pilots involved had actually less than 10 flight hours in the months preceding those crashes,” said Grazier.

Grazier also says military aircraft like the Osprey, which can take off like a helicopter and fly like an airplane, may be too sophisticated. 

US military Osprey aircraft with 6 aboard crashes off southern Japan
A Japanese coast guard vessel and a helicopter conduct search-and-rescue operation off the coast of Japan

US military Osprey aircraft with 6 aboard crashes off southern Japan

At least one person is dead; the status of the five others on the aircraft was not immediately known.


“It doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand that the more gadgets that you bolt onto an aircraft, the more things that can break and keep that aircraft grounded,” said Grazier.

For the loved ones of service members killed in military training accidents, answers can’t come soon enough. 

"There were sometimes he had to do emergency landings. There was one time in particular when he was deployed; he had to do an emergency landing in Syria because of an engine failure,” said Kelsey Hancock.

Hancock’s fiancée, Captain Nick Losapio, flew Ospreys for the Marines.

She says he was hailed as a once-in-a-generation pilot but also experienced mechanical issues while flying the Osprey. That was before the March 2022 training exercise that claimed his life. 

He was one of five Marines killed in a training incident on a V-22 Osprey in the California desert. 

“I had heard people say things like the Osprey is a widowmaker. But I trusted in his ability. I knew he was very diligent and smart, and he studied constantly,” said Hancock.

The grounding of the Ospreys has had the deepest impact on the Marines, which use over 300 Ospreys to carry out a variety of missions. 

The presidential fleet also uses ospreys to transport White House staff and reporters. While the U.S. military is set to lift the ban on the Ospreys, it still remains unclear when they’ll be commandeered back into the skies. 

 “Now, the fact that the Osprey fleet remains grounded certainly suggests that whatever has caused these problems means that it's a fleet-wide issue, and commanders don't yet know how to mitigate that issue to make the Osprey safe to fly again,” said Grazier.

According to theFlight Safety Foundation, there have been more than 40 accidents involving Ospreys worldwide since the aircraft entered into service in 2007, resulting in more than 30 deaths.