|Test Team Prepares CV-22 for Flight|
Test Team Prepares CV-22 for Flight
By Leigh Anne Bierstine, Air Force Flight Test Center Public Affairs.
Edwards Air Force Base, California -- (AFPN) March 15, 2002 -- A diverse team of flight-test experts here are working toward a common goal -- returning the Air Force version of the V-22 Osprey to flight this summer.
Staff Sgts. Byron Grandy-Richardson (left) and Joseph Shulte, both from the CV-22 Integrated Test Force at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., work on the hydraulics and electric systems inside the wing cove of a CV-22. The test force is preparing to resume flight-testing of the CV-22, which was grounded after a December 2000 crash.
Photo by Leigh Anne Bierstine
Pilots from the test and operational worlds, along with a cadre of handpicked engineers and mechanics, are preparing the CV-22 to resume flight-testing here in July. Flight-tests of the Air Force version were halted after a December 2000 V-22 crash grounded the entire Osprey fleet.
Since that time, the integrated test force here has been working to correct those deficiencies in the aircraft that were identified through a Marine Corps operational evaluation and the Defense Department's blue ribbon panel of experts. The secretary of defense formed the independent panel of defense and industry experts after the December 2000 crash to evaluate whether the program should go forward and, if so, what deficiencies needed to be corrected.
Today, the CV-22 test team is set to resume the engineering, manufacturing and development phase of the CV-22 acquisition program. Before the flight-test program resumes, the test team will perform the necessary flight-checks to ensure all maintenance actions taken were performed properly.
Testing will pick up where it left off in 2000 with an emphasis on the aircraft's radar capabilities, said Maj. Todd Lovell, commander of the 18 Flight Test Squadron's Detachment 1 here. The 18 FLTS is a special operations test squadron based at Hurlburt Field, Fla. Lovell and his team are working with the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center's Det. 5 and the 418th Flight Test Squadron both at Edwards.
"Because the aircraft hasn't flown since late 2000, we will have two initial shake-down flights," Lovell said. "After that, we will resume developmental testing with a goal of moving the program toward operational tests scheduled for 2006."
Once testing resumes, Lovell said the CV-22 team will focus on electronic counter measure and terrain-following tests. Edwards is the perfect location to conduct CV-22 flight-testing because the ranges are already set up for terrain-following testing and they are in close proximity to the Western Test Range and the Navy's China Lake test ranges, Lovell said.
In the meantime, CV-22 mechanics and engineers here continue to correct the deficiencies outlined by the Department of Defense.
Much of the test team's work is focused on tubing and wires that were positioned too closely to other materials in the aircraft, said Tech. Sgt. John Lysaght, a structural mechanic with the CV-22 test force.
The close proximity of the wires eventually led to chafing. Mechanics working on the two test aircraft here have been changing the routing and placement of the wires to create a free zone around them, he said.
He said the downtime has given the mechanics working on the CV-22 a unique opportunity to provide input.
"We know this aircraft more intimately because we've been involved in improving the design aspects from day one," Lysaght said. "We are getting in there and getting things changed. This results in better (technical) data for the crews who will be maintaining this aircraft and it means a safer aircraft for those who will be flying it."
Lysaght said the challenge, once flying resumes this summer, will be to maintain the aircraft on a daily basis.
"Right now we are in a re-engineering effort and are used to working off of blue prints instead of the (technical) data that we use to maintain the aircraft and generate sorties every day," he said. "But I have no doubt this is something we can overcome."
Part of the solution lies in the experience each of the test force's 60 maintainers brings to the project.
Staff Sgt. David Stephens, a tiltrotor journeyman working on the CV-22, said that everyone working with him in the CV-22 hangar has been "handpicked." The tour is a special duty assignment and most of the mechanics working on the redesign of the CV-22 here have extensive helicopter experience. Until recently, the lowest ranking enlisted member on the CV-22 floor was a staff sergeant.
"This aircraft is unique in that it flies like an airplane but takes off like a helicopter," said Stephens, who maintained MH-53J (Pave Lows) at his last assignment at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M. "I've worked with several of the crew chiefs here while stationed at other bases and now we are all working together again to make this a better aircraft."
Like the pilots and flight engineers assigned to the CV-22, the maintainers come from an array of operational and flight-test backgrounds. About 20 contractors from Bell and Boeing also support the integrated test force. All work to support the V-22 Osprey System Program Office at Naval Air Station, Patuxant River, Md.
Air Force officials have plans to acquire 50 CV-22s to replace its fleet of MH-53J helicopters used to insert and extract special operations forces from hostile areas. The first production aircraft will go to the 58th Training Squadron at Kirtland AFB, where they will be used for CV-22 advanced aircrew training.