UPDATED 17 January | Rescue workers in Hawaii are still searching for two United States Marine Corps (USMC) CH-53 helicopters and their occupants following an apparent colission between the helos over the Pacific on Friday 15 January.
Update: No trace of the helicopters was found until Sunday 17 January. The Pentagon has released the names of those missing, while the search continues.
The two giant CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter are part of the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing and are based at Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay. Both were on a routine training mission when they apparently collided just before midnight local time. Each helicopter carried six persons on board.
Debris is said to have been spotted, but no sign of survivors yet. Also, no mayday call was heard from the helicopters.
While more than 200 Bell/Boeing V-22 Ospreys are already in service with the US Air Force and US Marines (USMC), and the first international order has been placed, the operations with this tilt-rotor aircraft are more and more restricted. Especially when it comes to landing in dusty conditions and in desert environments.
According to military sources US authorities have now officially ordered Osprey pilots not to hover any longer than 30 seconds close to the ground when landing on a dusty or sandy patch of land, down from the earlier directive of 60 seconds. Although V-22 landings are normally done in much less then that, with the aid of on board sensors and instruments, the new order is cause for concern for the tilt-rotor units operating not only in the desert lands of Asia, Africa and the Middle East, but all over the world.
Reason for the new directive is the May crash of a USMC MV-22B on Marine Corps Training Area Bellows – a former Air Force Station turned into training location – on the island of Oahu of Hawaii. According to preliminary findings one of the two Osprey engines stalled after 45 seconds of hovering, presumably due to dust that came into the engine systems during a so-called Reduced Visibility Landing – meaning in this case landing in a dust cloud the rotors just kicked up themselves.
Although RVLs not only covers these so-called “brown outs” it is not proven yet that Ospreys have similar problems with “white outs” – when the down wash of helicopter or Osprey rotors creates snow clouds in winter conditions with the same less or no visibility upon landing.
The accident at Bellows, in which 2 of the 22 marines on board died, puts the focus again on the crappy filters of the V-22 engines. Changed after to the original design was cause for engine fires, the current filters apparently allow to much dust entering the power plants. Bell and Boeing are said to work on yet another solution, but that one has not been implemented yet.
Other military assets like the old CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters the V-22s are replacing – as well as the US Army’s CH-47 Chinooks of similar size – seem to have not much trouble at all with RVLs during normal operations in training and war situations.
While most V-22 pilots manage to put their planes down in under 20 seconds, the new directive orders them to stay above the dust clouds they kick up and continue to hover there if needed until the dust has settled down and it is safe to try to land again. In war zones such increased altitude and exposure of the Osprey will increase the risk of being hit by enemy fire. Food for though for the ones deciding over V-22 tactics in the field.
Solar powered aircraft Solar Impulse is busy breaking records as these words are typed, in this case the record for longest solar powered flight ever. The aircraft took off from Nagoya, Japan, on Monday 29 June at 03.00 hrs local time and is scheduled to arrive in Honolulu, Hawaii later this week. Total expected flight time: 120 hours.
The take off from Nagoya is a relief for the Solar Impulse team, following an aborted attempt last week and – several weeks ago – an unscheduled stop in Nagoya in the first place. Solar Impulse aimed at crossing the Pacific directly from China to Hawaii, but worsening weather conditions forced the team to land in Nagoya. Weather also caused the last minute aborted take off last week.
The island of Oahu, Hawaii, is preparing for standard operations with the US Marine Corps MV-22B Osprey tilt-rotor transport / assault aircraft. Hensel Phelps Construction Co. of nearby Honolulu has just been given a deal worth 62.5 million dollars to construct a hangar, parking apron and taxiway to support one MV-22 squadron at the Marine Corps Base Hawaii, better known as Kaneohe Bay on the eastern shore of the island.
The multi-story modified aircraft maintenance hangar will provide a weather protected shelter for inspection, service and maintenance. The high bay aircraft maintenance hangar will be steel frame construction with a standing seam metal roof installed over a steel metal deck. The hangar’s second floor administrative space will be steel framed with metal deck and concrete fill, according to the US Department of Defense’s contract overview. The work is expected to be completed by January 2017.
Already in 2012 the US DoD decided to base up to two Marine Medium Tiltrotor (VMM) squadrons, each flying up to a dozen Bell/Boeing MV-22 Ospreys, and one Marine Light Attack Helicopter (HMLA) squadron with 15 AH-1W Super Cobra attack and 12 UH-1Y Venom utility helicopters. Kaneohe’s Marine Air Group 24 currently consists of HMLA-367 plus HMH-463 flying the Sikorsky CH-53E. With Sea Stallion operations winding down, the Ospreys will step in.
With the growing Chinese threat in the Pacific as a possible reason, the US Air Force (USAF) and US Army (USAR) have beefed up their Emergency Deployment Readiness Response (EDRR) of Hawaiian islands. On October 17th, 2013, USAR Stryker combat vehicles were flown in to largest land of the island group far from the US mainland by C-17s, for the first time ever.
It was a joint exercise by airmen from the 15th Wing and soldiers from the 25th Infantry Division. The C-17 crews flew two of the Army’s Stryker combat vehicles to the Pohakuloa Training Area on Kona for the exercise. Exercise players included the Army’s 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division and the Air Force’s 535th Airlift Squadron and 15th Wing. The Stryker is one of the more fast armoured vehicles which is suited for both heavy terrain and city warfare.
Until this week, the Army always moved their Hawaii based Stryker vehicles via ships. Although the island of Hawaii is the largest of the group of eight larger islands, the emphasize of the US defence in the area lies on Oahu and the islands groups capital Honolulu there.