Report: MV-22 Osprey crash caused by dust from rotor wash


File photo of MV-22 Osprey. USAF photo..

The Marine Corps investigation into the crash of an MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft May 17 in Hawaii determined that it was caused by dust stirred up by the rotor wash. After making multiple attempts to land in brown-out conditions, the buildup of debris on the turbine blades and vanes led to a compressor stall in the left engine, which decreased lift and resulted in the hard landing and fire.

The report found that pilot performance and an improper site survey of the landing zone led to the accident, resulting in the deaths of two and injuries to 20 on board.

The potential for the Osprey to deliver water or personnel to fight wildfires was evaluated by the Marine Corps in tests with a 900-gallon water bucket. They recommended that the aircraft not exceed 90 knots with a bucket and 50 knots when dropping water.

MV-22 Osprey with bucket

MV-22 Osprey with bucket. DOD photo.

The Osprey is a tilt-rotor aircraft capable of vertical or short takeoff and landing. When airborne, it can cruise at over 300 mph, can carry 24 to 32 troops, or 15,000 pounds of external cargo.

However, there are some issues that would stand in the way of the Osprey fighting fires, such as the very powerful rotor wash that has injured people nearby, the extreme heat that comes out of the engine exhaust which has started wildland fires and damaged flight decks on ships, and the high cost of $83,256 dollars an hour.

We have written a number of articles at Fire Aviation and at Wildfire Today about the MV-22 Osprey and its suitability for fighting fires.

Victoria to again have two large air tankers under contract this summer

Tanker 161 RJ85.

Tanker 161, an RJ85. Photo supplied by RJ85 Australia.

Emergency Management Victoria will have two large air tankers from North America under firefighting contract again during their down-under summer. Beginning December 1 they expect to have the same types of aircraft that they employed in the 2014/2015 bushfire season — one of Conair’s RJ85s, and Coulson’s Tanker 131, a C-130Q (known in Australia as Bomber 390).

The RJ85, N355AC, is en route now island hopping across the Pacific after departing Abbotsford, British Columbia at 2:04 p.m. MST on November 14. When heard from last, it left Guadalcanal Nov. 17 at 3:03 p.m. MST on its final leg and was due in Australia Nov. 17 at 8:52 p.m. MST, a six-hour flight.  Last year because of the limited range of the RJ85, they used fuel bladders for the multi-day trip.

Coulson’s Tanker 131 is getting a new 4,000 USG tank and Smart Controller upgrade and is expected to depart for Australia by the end of next week.

During the 2014/2015 fire season the two air tankers completed 81 drops of fire retardant on fires in Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia.

New South Wales already has two air tankers on duty, a DC-10 operated by 10 Tanker Air Carrier, and Coulson’s Tanker 132, an L-382G which is a civilian stretched version of a C-130.

Air tankers discussed in Senate hearing

Richard Zerkel

(UPDATED November 19, 2015. Scroll down to see the updated information.)


Air tankers was one of the topics discussed today in a Washington D.C. hearing convened by the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Richard B. Zerkel, President of Lynden Air Cargo, was one of six witnesses who testified, two of whom brought up issues about firefighting aircraft.

One of Mr. Zerkel’s main points in his prepared testimony was the “double standard” used by the U.S. Forest Service in managing their government owned air tankers and privately owned air tankers. The USFS will not operate the seven HC-130H air tankers obtained from the Coast Guard according to Federal Aviation Administration regulations as Part 121 air carrier aircraft, but will instead fly them as public use aircraft. This allows them to make up their own standards, or, as they announced, use procedures created by the Coast Guard who will advise the USFS about maintenance of the aircraft. (Fire Aviation wrote about this issue in September, 2015.)

Mr. Zerkel, in referring to the first of the USFS HC-130Hs which began spraying retardant on fires this summer, described it as “equipped with the obsolete MAFFS II dispersant system and operated without appropriate FAA oversight.” The MAFFS system uses compressed air to force the retardant out of the 3,000-gallon tank. Spraying the liquid, rather than allowing gravity to let it fall from the tank, breaks up the retardant into small droplets which does not penetrate tree canopies as well as a conventional gravity-powered system. The plans are to eventually replace the MAFFS tanks with conventional gravity systems, but the Air Force, the agency converting the aircraft into air tankers, has been dithering about the contracts for the retardant system since July of 2014, without any result so far.

Mr. Zerkel argued that the federal fire aviation fleet should operate their aircraft under the same standards they require of their contractors, FAA Part 121. The Chair of the Committee, Senator Lisa Murkowski from Alaska, the state in which Lynden Air Cargo is based, agreed, saying the current system “is absolutely unacceptable. You go with your highest standard.”

Lynden Air Cargo has skin in the game. The company took one of their seven L-382 cargo planes, a civilian version of the Hercules C-130, and spent $4.5 million, according to Mr. Zerkel, to retrofit it as an air tanker and train personnel to fly and maintain it. That aircraft is leased to Coulson who operates it as Air Tanker 132, currently on a firefighting contract in New South Wales, Australia. It was disqualified from competing for the USFS next-gen Version 2 air tanker contract earlier this year because part of the Supplemental Type Certificate had not been awarded from the Federal Aviation Administration by the USFS deadline, which was a couple of months before the contracts were awarded.

Mr. Zerkel said, “The commercial aerial firefighting industry is entirely capable of providing all of the Forest Service’s Large Air Tanker requirements at considerably less expense than the current planned use of C-130H aircraft.” And further, “The non-regulated, public aircraft format, proposed for the government owned large air tanker fleet is inherently less safe than the rigorous standards the commercial fleet must adhere to and has set an unfair double standard.

Chris MaischAnother witness from Alaska brought up the issue of inconsistent “carding”, or qualification of fire aviation assets. John “Chris” Maisch, the Alaska State Forester who was also representing the National Association of State Foresters, provided some examples of problems with “carding” individual pilots and aviation platforms.

  • Colorado sent its multi-mission fire detection and mapping aircraft, which was approved by the Forest Service in its Region 2, to Oregon where it had to be carded again by Forest Service Region 6.
  • A state of Alaska contract helicopter based out of California had been carded at the beginning of the fire season by the Forest Service and had to be re-carded by the Department of Interior’s Office of Aircraft Services when it reported to Alaska for work.

The video recording of the hearing can be viewed at the Committee’s web site.


UPDATE: On November 19, 2015 we heard from Richard B. Zerkel, President of Lynden Air Cargo, who testified at the hearing. He wanted to make it clear that he does not recommend that the U.S. Forest Service operate their air tankers under CFR Part 121. But he would like to see them under CFR Part 137 Agricultural Aircraft Operations that covers aerial dispensing. Failing that, Mr. Zerkel thinks they should at least be required to obtain Supplemental Type Certificates for all modifications and document any maintenance and or operational training which should then be available to the general public.

Competition for design of purpose-built air tanker

The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics is conducting a competition for the design of a large air tanker open to undergraduate AIAA branches or at-large Student Members. They will be competing for prizes ranging from $500 for first place to $125 for third.

The purpose-built air tanker in this design competition will have a crew of two pilots, 5,000 gallon retardant capacity, 2,500 nm ferry range, dash speed of 300 knots, and will be powered by turbofan or turboprop engines.

The winners will be announced in August of 2016. It will be interesting to see what they come up with.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Bean.

Dubai orders jetpacks for first responders

Martin jetpack

Martin jetpack. Photo by Martin Aircraft.

Emergency services personnel in Dubai are known to think outside the box when it comes to transporting first responders to incidents, as evidenced by the Corvette used by their civil defense organization. Now they have placed an order for 20 “jetpacks” made by Martin Aircraft, propelled not by jet engines, but by ducted fans.

From the BBC:

A deal between Dubai’s civil defense force and New Zealand-based Martin Aircraft suggests that the technology is about to move mainstream.

For decades, jetpack fans have predicted a future when we would be using personal power-packs – like James Bond in the 1965 film Thunderball.

Now, Dubai has announced an initial order for up to 20 Martin jetpacks, plus simulators and a training package, for delivery next year.

No financial details were disclosed at the Dubai Airshow, other than it is a multi-million-dollar contract. Each jetpack has a catalogue price of $250,000 (£165,000).

But these will not be used as the latest must-have for the wealthy and foolish. Dubai wants them for more serious reasons.

Lt Col Ali Hassan Almutawa, director of the Dubai Civil Defence Operations Department, said the packs would be used for reconnaissance and rescue.

“We see them performing a first-responder role,” he says, adding that the jetpacks would be particularly useful in the fire department during emergencies in Dubai’s skyscrapers.

“Sometimes we have challenges or difficulties to reach the top floors of those buildings. The aircraft can go into confined spaces to size-up the situation. We are going to modify them with thermal imaging cameras,” he says.

Coulson to supply retardant systems for Airbus C295W

C295 test drop

C295 test drop. Airbus photo.

The Coulson Group has signed a memorandum of understanding to provide fire retardant systems for Airbus’ C295W aircraft. Under the terms of the agreement Coulson will develop and manufacture a version of its Retardant Dropping System (RDS) which is already being used in two C-130 air tankers operated by Coulson.

The system installed in the C295W will consist of two roll-on/roll-off internal tanks which can be removed after the fire season. The aircraft will then be available for its conventional role as a ramp-equipped, multi-role transport able to carry cargo, troops, paratroops, or stretchers.

C295W Airbus graphic

The RDS for the C295W will include two internal tanks of 924 gallons each (3,500 liters), for a total of 1,848 gallons (7,000 liters). When dropping, the flow-rate can be adjusted via the cockpit control panel according to the desired coverage, aircraft speed, and height over terrain.

A prototype C295W air tanker has been flying since 2013 as a proof of concept. After it was deemed a success, Airbus turned to Coulson to adapt their existing C-130 system to the smaller C295W.

Coulson Aircrane manager, Britton Coulson said:

We are an on-going partner for Airbus and expect to deliver multiple systems per year on a continuous basis. There are over 130 C-295’s flying around the world with many more on order that are potential RDS upgrade candidates.

C295 Chilean Navy Airbus

C295 operated by the Chilean Navy. Airbus photo.

The C295, manufactured in Seville, Spain, was introduced in 2001. An enhanced performance version with winglets and uprated engines, the C295W, was announced in 2013. As of August, 2015, Airbus had delivered 136 of the C295 series aircraft with another 26 on order.

Coulson had the following promotional video produced for the 2015 Hercules Operators Conference.

Super Scoopers drop on media briefing

Two water-scooping air tankers dropping water on the Princeton Fire in Ventura County, California interrupted a media briefing on November 7. The first air tanker appeared to just miss the crowd of reporters and cameras, but the aim of the second was better 😉 .

The fun starts at 1:35 in the video.