The Marine Corps’ Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft that made a hard landing Monday during a training exercise caught fire after it impacted the high desert terrain near Creech Air Force Base, a Marine spokesman said Thursday.
“Upon impact, the survivability measures designed into the MV-22B (Osprey) enabled all aboard to leave the aircraft without injuries,” Maj. Carl B. Redding Jr., said in a statement released by Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in California where the aircraft is assigned to the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.
“After the crew exited the aircraft, it subsequently caught fire,” the statement says.
An Air Force rescue team responded to the scene some 48 miles northwest of Las Vegas to retrieve the Marine crew near the burned aircraft.
The hard landing occurred “in a designated and remote landing zone on unpopulated federal land,” Redding said.
According to Creech Air Force Base officials, the hard-landing site was one-half mile northeast of the base and 3½ miles from U.S. Highway 95. The base at Indian Springs, 45 miles northwest of Las Vegas, is a hub for remotely piloted aircraft operations primarily involving unmanned MQ-1 and RQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reapers. The drones are controlled via satellite link by pilots and sensor operators sitting at computer consoles in ground stations at the base.
Redding said the aircraft’s “black box” memory unit was retrieved and is being analyzed. A damage estimate for the Osprey, priced at $67 million per aircraft in 2008, will be determined during the crash investigation and released at its completion.
Ospreys have a history of crashes particularly during the testing phase from 1991 to 2000 when four resulted in 30 fatalities. In addition, three crashes including one in a combat zone have occurred since the V-22 Osprey became operational in 2007 resulting in six deaths.
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