A dangerous and defective military aircraft has claimed five more U.S. Marines. The Marines were on board an MV-22 Osprey that crashed near the Glamis community in California on June 9, The Washington Post reported. The area is in the desert east of San Diego and north of the Mexican border. The aircraft was part of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing based in California and was conducting a training mission. The incident is under investigation, and the cause has not been disclosed. Yet, a string of accidents involving the aircraft underscores its questionable safety record.

The Washington Post reports that “more than 40 people have died while flying on Ospreys since 1991.” The media outlet notes that the most recent Osprey crash before the one last month was in March during NATO exercises in Norway. The crash killed four American service members, and the cause also remains under investigation. The deadliest Osprey crash occurred in April 2000, killing 19 Marines. The cause of that crash was vortex ring state.

With its tilt-rotor technology, the Osprey is designed to function as both an airplane and a helicopter. Yet, the Osprey’s design is a compromise between two incompatible mechanical designs. The rotor blades are twisted more than a typical helicopter’s blades so they can function better when flying like an airplane. Additionally, the blades are shorter than optimal, so the Osprey can land on ships at sea. These design defects can increase the risk of a phenomenon known as the vortex ring state. This phenomenon creates significant downwash, and because the Osprey doesn’t have the power it needs to overcome the downwash, it loses altitude too quickly, preventing it from landing safely.

Another persistent problem with Ospreys is “turbine blade glassification.” This occurs during a brownout situation in a dusty setting such as a desert or beach area. The aircraft’s design requires it to hover as it attempts to land. The Osprey pulls in large amounts of reactive sand that melts at high temperatures. This caused a crash that killed two Marines in 2015.

In May 2015, the two Marines died in an Osprey crash at Marine Corps Training Area Bellows, Hawaii. While attempting to land during a training mission, the aircraft “hovered twice for brief periods of time in severe brownout conditions.” One of the two Marines who was killed was Lance Cpl. Matthew Determan. Mike Andrews, a lawyer in the firm’s Personal Injury & Product Liability Section who heads up our firm’s aviation litigation, represented Determan’s family. Mike has handled several cases involving the Osprey. Mike said:

It’s hard to watch this happen time and again and know the defective aircraft remains in use, putting more of our service members at risk.

If you would like to have more information on the above or any aspect of aviation litigation or you need help on an aviation case, contact Mike Andrews.

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