Searching for answers and accountability in recent military aircraft crashes

In April 9, 2010, an Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft crashed in Afghanistan killing four people.

Almost two years to the day after the crash in Afghanistan, the AP reported “Two U.S. troops die in helicopter crash in Morocco” (April 11, 2012):

Two U.S. Marines were killed and two severely injured in the crash of a hybrid aircraft in Morocco on Wednesday, officials said.

The Marines were taking part in joint U.S.-Moroccan military excercises located in the south of the country based in Agadir, said U.S. Embassy spokesman Rodney Ford in Rabat, who gave the toll.


The aircraft was participating in a U.S.-Moroccan military exercise known as “African Lion.”


The MV-22, a joint venture of Boeing Co. and Textron Inc.’s Bell Helicopter, is designed to carry 24 combat troops and fly twice as fast as the Vietnam War-era assault helicopters it was to replace.

The Osprey program was nearly scrapped after a history of mechanical failures and two test crashes that killed 23 Marines in 2000. But development continued, and the aircraft have been deployed to Iraq.

While the General Accounting Office questioned the Osprey’s performance in a report last year, the Marine Corps has called it effective.

An Air Force version of the aircraft crashed in Afghanistan in April 2010, killing three service members and one civilian contractor.

The Osprey has been the subject of intense controversy with critics pointing to the exorbitant cost and accident rate, and proponents citing the utility of the aircraft. The Marines  have been able to keep the program alive through the rough and tumble budget wars in Washington.  The Marines now propose to bring a fleet of Osprey to the Marine Corps Base Hawaii Kaneohe Bay and to Takae in Okinawa.

Meanwhile, ABC News reported that the widow of a F-22 Raptor pilot who died in a crash in Alaska is suing the manufacturer for a faulty design that led to the crash, “F-22 Crash Widow Sues Lockheed Martin for Wrongful Death” (March 13, 2012):

The widow of the F-22 Raptor pilot who died after a malfunction in his jet cut off his oxygen system during a training mission in Alaska is suing the F-22 manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, and other major defense contracting companies for wrongful death, negligence and fraud.

Anna Haney, wife of the late Capt. Jeff Haney, filed a complaint in an Illinois court Monday alleging Lockheed knowingly sold the U.S. Air Force “dangerous and defective” planes that did not provide life support systems “that would allow our pilots to survive even routine training missions, such as the one that killed” Haney, according to a report by the Courthouse News Service.

In addition to Lockheed Martin, the suit names other major defense contractors such as Boeing, Honeywell International and Pratt and Whitney — all involved in various aspects of the F-22’s systems — as defendants. The complaint also alleges that the U.S. Air Force has awarded Lockheed Martin millions of dollars on a new contract to investigate and solve ongoing problems with the planes’ life support systems.


Capt. Jeff Haney was killed in November 2010 when, after completing a training mission over the Alaskan wilderness, a malfunction in his $143 million plane caused his oxygen system to shut off completely, causing him to experience “a sense similar to suffocation,” according to the Air Force’s investigative report into the incident. Haney’s plane entered a sharp dive and, seconds later, crashed, spreading debris more than a quarter mile.

After more than a year-long investigation into the crash, the Air Force concluded that he was at fault for crashing the plane.

“The [investigation] board president found, by clear and convincing evidence, the cause of the mishap was the [pilot’s] failure to recognize and initiate a timely dive recovery due to channelized attention, breakdown of visual scan, and unrecognized spatial disorientation,” the December 2011 report said, essentially saying Haney was too distracted by the lack of oxygen to fly the plane properly. The report also noted other contributing factors in the crash but said it was still a mystery as to what caused the original malfunction.

In November 2010, the Anchorage Daily News reported “Airforce pilot dies in F22 crash” (November 20, 2010):

The pilot of an F-22 Raptor fighter jet that went down Tuesday during a training flight over Interior Alaska died in the crash, Col. Jack McMullen, commander of the Air Force’s 3rd Wing, said Friday.


F-22 emergencies

According to the Air Force, there have been four emergency incidents with the Raptor or its prototypes, including three crashes, one of which was fatal.

• March 2009: An F-22 on a test flight crashed about 35 miles northeast of Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. The crash killed the pilot, a contractor for Lockheed Martin and a 21-years Air Force veteran. “Human factors associated with high gravitational forces,” caused the crash, according to an accident investigation report.

• September 2007: Loaded with eight small-diameter bombs, an F-22 suffered a brief flameout of both of its engines while conducting a midair roll. Investigators blamed an incorrect trim setting. As a result of the power loss, air traffic controllers briefly lost telemetry signals from the jet.

• December 2004: An F-22 lost electrical power shortly after taking off from Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. The test pilot, a lieutenant colonel, survived after ejecting just before the jet flipped and skidded across the desert floor. The Air Force ceased F-22 flight operations for 18 days following the crash.

• April 1992: A prototype to the F-22, the YF-22, slammed into an Edwards Air Force Base runway, because of a low approach taken by the test pilot, who ejected safely.



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