Thursday, October 27, 2011

Crankin' Osprey

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the MV-22s participated in the MCAS Miramar Open House MAGTF demonstration. While their ability to take-off, hover, rotate around and land like a helicopter is impressive, watching them crank by in a high-speed pass is equally impressive. Mainly it's those humongous prop blades that amaze me.

The one thing that bothers me about the Osprey, though, is the size and vulnerability of those props. That's a lot of real estate whirling about out there like a big flashing target. A couple of rounds fired into the propeller arc would make for a bad situation really fast. I don't care how well the MV-22 can fly in a simulated engine-out emergency, it's another story when one side is shot up and the damaged blades cause huge vibration problems that will violently shake the nacelle and vehicle. Think of an improperly loaded washing machine in spin cycle. I'm sure a lot of survivability studies have been done and my worries are overblown, but I can't help but feel really nervous about that.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

It's a Blast

The MV-22 did a hover demo at NAS North Island during the opening CONA event this year. While the main action was away from the media tower and on the other side of the public and display ramp, it was front and center for the VIPs on USS Stennis. What impressed me the most was the amount of downwash from the big rotors and the exhaust blast. You can see how far up the Osprey is above the water and how much spray it kicks up. Note that the aircraft was in mid-sideslip to the right as the exhaust plume bends under the aircraft. When it ceased translating to starboard the spray was even larger.

Pity the poor groundcrew and grunts who are under the Osprey in a dirty, dusty environment like Iraq or Afghanistan. They all earn their pay every day.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Osprey Launch

The V-22 Osprey is a unique bird. The tiltrotor concept has been proposed and built as experimental and prototype aircraft many times before. Each attempt failed to make it into production.

The Osprey seemed doomed to follow that pattern, but the persistence of the Marine Corps saw the aircraft through a 25 year development period, with a major expenditure in dollars and three accidents with many lives lost.

But in the end the Corps got the vehicle it wanted. With the ability to take-off, hover and land like a helicopter, but fly at speeds much faster than a rotary-wing aircraft, it began combat operations in 2007.

According to reports, the pilots and crews love it. But it is maintenance heavy, so the follow-on order may be cancelled for budgetary reasons. This is also hand-in-hand with a major reevaluation of the purpose of the Marines since amphibious operations in contested environments are seemingly less likely than in the past.

The Corps would argue that elevates the need for the MV-22s, but we'll see if that angle carries any weight.

Nevertheless, it is a fascinating aircraft to watch. This shot, taken from the hangar at MCAS Miramar during this year's ISAP convention in San Diego, shows the CAG bird from HMM-166 "Sea Elks" hovering after take-off from the squadron ramp. Notice the heat exhaust blowing down from the engine nacelles. That's a lot of blast to deal with, but deal with it they do. It's an odd looking thing in the air, as we shall see in a subsequent post, but it is here, it is operational and it is performing as advertised.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Viper in the Lead, Yankee Close Behind

Media Day and MCAS Miramar also saw the arrival of several aircraft for static display. Fixed wing aircraft tended to stay on the taxiway and head east to other spots on the ramp. Fortunately, the rotary wing aircraft chose to park near the press site.

These two Bell-made helicopters from MCAS Camp Pendleton were among them. Leading the way was an AH-1Z Viper (also known as a Zulu Cobra) from HMLAT-303. Close behind was a UH-1Y Venom (also called Yankee Huey) from the same training squadron.

In a neat coincidental juxtaposition, a pre-World War II era Ryan PT-22 has just landed and can be seen in the background.

I particularly enjoyed taking these shots, especially being able to get in tight with the telephoto and the resulting compression. It makes for a nicely dramatic image. Fortunately I had it slow enough to get some rotor blur. There is just enough motion to make the photo dynamic and alive.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

From the Cockpit - An-2

Well, I thought I'd try something new and see if I can get videos to work on the blog, too. As you can see, the day was gorgeous once the clouds burned off enough from MCAS Miramar and we were allowed to take-off. A lot of low clouds remained, which added a lot of neat texture to the landscape as we flew over. It was slow, leisurely and wonderful!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Yellow Colt and Uncle Joe

In case you were curious as to what an An-2 looked like from the outside, here's a shot of the beast during the overcast morning hours while we waited for the clouds to burn off. Bob Cable is giving the press a briefing on the airplane during the interlude.

As can be seen, the Colt was short on beauty. But she made up for it in her superb low speed handling and rough field capabilities. Indeed, the An-2 was called the DC-3 of the Eastern Block, a rather apt comparison, all things considered.

An interesting note is that the wings, horizontal tailplanes and vertical tail are fabric covered. The fuselage and narrow walk panels on top of the wing are metal (the fuel tanks are filled from the top of the wing).

Below is the photo of Stalin that so bemused the young woman. His moustache is rather grand. The AK-47 mounted to the wall was a nice interior decorating touch.

In retrospect, it is ironic that during World War II, at least during the period the Soviet Union was on our side (they did start off allied with Germany and rather coldly bisected Poland), Stalin was viewed rather benignly here in the States, so perhaps the young woman can be forgiven. He was cheerfully known as "Uncle Joe" and we sent an incredible amount of planes and war material to the USSR to keep it going during the war. The purges of the 1930s and the treachery of Poland were conveniently forgotten in the need to keep a united front against the Nazis. That, of course, would change after Germany was defeated, but at least the primary objective was met.

War and politics do indeed make for strange bedfellows.