(Also participating in this briefing was Lieutenant General Fred McCorkle, deputy chief of staff for Aviation, Headquarters Marine Corps)
Mr. Bacon: We're going to start the briefing today with Lieutenant General Fred McCorkle of the Marine Corps to bring you up to date on the V-22. He's briefed you several times before, and you know him well. And when he's finished and answered all your questions, which I'm sure he'll do, then I'll come back and take questions on other issues.
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: Good afternoon. I was watching you on C-SPAN when I couldn't sleep over the weekend and -- (scattered laughter) -- actually did a great job. Oh. I must have had a stroke in my sleep, so -- (laughter) --
Q: (Off mike.)
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: But as I promised you-all the last time I was here, as soon as we had additional information that I could pass to you on the MV-22 crash which resulted in the loss of 19 of our Marines, I would come back and update you. And as you know, the cause of this investigation -- or the investigation into the cause of the mishap continues.
As a consideration for the welfare of the families of the Marines that were lost in this tragic accident, we have informed them of our decision and rationale to resume flights, prior to this press conference with you.
I'm going to tell you a couple of things of what I know. And we've brought some graphics or picture boards up here for you to see.
The graphic -- first graphic that you see here is going to be a summary of the mishap flight on 8 April. I would normally change these myself, but because of being here with the lectern, I've asked Captain B-P [Bakkar-Poe] to come up and change them for me.
The mishap aircraft was the second aircraft in a flight of four MV-22s scheduled to be part of a larger simulated NEO, or non-combatant evacuation operation exercise.
The overall mission called for all four of these aircraft to depart Yuma, Arizona at 9,500 feet above sea level. Destination, as you know, was at Marana Airport just outside Tucson.
The flight separated into two sections of two aircraft each with the second section orbiting east of the town. The first section containing the mishap Osprey continued to Marana to drop off its load of evacuation control center and security personnel. As you know, that was 15 passengers.
The flight of four departed the Marine Corps air station at approximately 1900, 10 minutes after sunset. The flight was undertaken in excellent weather conditions with 17 percent illumination. The flight traveled at an altitude of 9,500 feet at an airspeed of 200 knots, as was briefed. They made their initial descent to 5,000 feet to begin the approach into Marana at 7:55 p.m. The MV-22 crash occurred at approximately 8:00 p.m.
I brought a second graphic, which shows the crash site of the mishap Osprey as well as the position of the lead Osprey after his landing and rollout. As I briefed you before, the lead aircraft touched down approximately 300 feet in front of the crash site and continued to roll. And as you can see, it's about a thousand feet from one end to the other of the mat.
Analysis of the data retrieved from the crash survivable memory unit, or the CSMU, coupled with comprehensive engineering investigations to date have found no mechanical or software failures. The engineering investigations are complete, and we have found no failures in the following mechanical, structural or software components: None in the flight controls, the drive train, the engines, the rotor systems, the hydraulic, the airframe or the software. Our investigation is now concentrating on flight characteristics which are not peculiar or unique to the V-22 but can be experienced in all our helicopters, and by "all helicopters," all Department of Defense helicopters, or any others in the world.
The third graphic that I will show you depicts the last seconds of the mishap aircraft flight. This data comes from the aircraft survivable memory unit, of CSMU. The vertical axis depicts heights above the ground in feet, while the horizontal shows time in seconds as read from the CSMU. As depicted by T6 on the chart, this is six seconds before impact.
The mishap aircraft was traveling at 41 knots and was 350 feet above AGL. And it's my opinion, without bringing in backup slides, this is at the time that he is about 3 o'clock high and the crew chief says he's moving back into position.
Four seconds before impact, the aircraft was at 280 feet and traveling at 37 knots. And at this time, I think that he was back in position. And when he was back in position, he put in about five to 15 degrees angle bank to the right and a little bit of right rudder, and I think that was to stabilize his movement on the axis.
Three seconds before impact, the mishap aircraft was at 245 feet and traveling at 33 knots. And one second prior to impact, the mishap aircraft was at 210 feet and traveling at 30 knots.
In summary, the data shows that the mishap aircraft was in a high rate of descent at a relatively forward low air speed. These characteristics can lead to a condition known as power settling or vortex ring state, which some of you have mentioned to me. This can result in a loss of lift on the rotor system. Power settling is a condition which can be common to all helicopter flight, and is now the main focus of the investigation.
I've read several accounts on turbulence. We are still investigating other possible causes, such as the effects of operating two aircraft in close proximity to each other in flight and settling with power, which is a completely different thing. Now, if you go out and pick up one of the aero books, you'll sometimes see "power settling" and "settling with power" mentioned with the same -- they'll reverse the definitions or whatever. But if you would like to hear it, power settling is the incapability to stop a rate of descent when the aircraft begins to settle into a vortex ring state. The vortex ring state occurs when the velocity of the downwash from the rotor is approximately equal to the rate of descent of the aircraft, causing the air to recirculate up and around and back down through the rotor system.
And basically, if you want to know, settling with power is when you don't have enough gas or enough power to keep you up in the air because you're too heavy, and then you continue to fall.
And they reverse those sometimes. But power settling, which is the main thing that we are looking at, is what I just described to you.
After a third consideration and consultation with the Naval Air Systems Command, who has been great in this, and the Naval Air Safety Center, the commandant is confident that our MV-22 Osprey aircraft are fully airworthy. As I stated, we have found no structural or design flaws that would preclude safe-flight operations and maintain complete faith in the safety of the V-22.
Our plan is now to resume V-22 flights, beginning with the EMD aircraft, or the engineering, manufacturing and development. These EMD aircraft are instrumented and flown by developmental test pilots, who are responsible for determining the parameters and limitations of the aircraft's flight envelope.
Following continued analysis of flight operations and insights gained from further findings of the investigation, we will conduct or continue our phased approach to the return of production MV-22s to flight status. This will be initially with essential air crew only, and then with passengers.
As you know, the MV-22 has already safely flown over 40 troop-lift missions and has carried over 700 troops during previous operational evaluation flights. To personally demonstrate his confidence in this aircraft, the commandant plans to be aboard the first aircraft carrying passengers. The chief of staff for the Air Force, General Mike Ryan, has also stated his request to go out with General Jones. And we are right now trying to fix the schedule so both of them will able to go out at the same time, either to Yuma, Arizona, or China Lake.
Renewed media interest and some criticism will most likely accompany our decision to resume the V-22 flights. It is important that the public understands both their decision to resume flights and our commitment to the MV-22 Osprey. And hopefully you will help me, as you have in the past, in doing this.
The Osprey is clearly a much better, much safer and much more capable aircraft than the Vietnam-era helicopters that it will replace. Our men and women in uniform deserve the safest and most capable and most advanced equipment that our country can provide for them. The V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft represents that effort.
Your ongoing concern -- and I know I met with many of you in here a lot of times -- with regard to the facts surrounding this tragedy is both valued and appreciated by me. Some people recommended that I take that out. And I said I wasn't going to take it out because most of you in here have personally taken care of me in a lot of different areas.
I have tried to be very forthcoming with you over the course of this investigation, but I have got to reemphasize that the investigation is still ongoing. I would, therefore, ask that you respect the fact that the mishap board is still in session and that there are questions that I will not be able to answer at this time. Having said that, I am prepared to answer those questions which will not lead to conclusions, which the mishap board or the JAG are tasked to deal with.
Q: General, if I understand this, the power settling is akin, in a sense, to a stall.
And is there any kind of a device, now or anticipated, on the MV-22 that would alert the crew? Is there any kind of a stall warning device that can be put on those rotors? And the last part of the question is, even though he was in an apparent bank at the time, would it be unusual for one to stall as opposed to both stalling?
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: Two questions; I'll answer the first one first. No, we do not have a stall warning system and I'm not sure how you could ever do that on a rotor aircraft of any type, such as a helicopter or an MV-22.
The second question, if you look at a CH-46, which I have a lot of time in, you've got the tandem rotors -- or a 53 or whatever with a single large rotor out there -- and you're in power settling, then everything would stall at the same time. As I see it, in an MV-22, and I'm not an aerodynamics expert, but if you've got two separate wings out there, it's my opinion that when you added rudder or down wing or whatever, maybe the flow of air, as I've heard it discussed, over the right wing or the right rotor may not have been enough, and he might have been right on the edge of power settling, and at that point, the wing would dip.
Q: Can we use "stall" intermittently with "power settling"?
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: Yeah, I think that you could probably use stall in there. It's when your lift is -- the wind going up through the blades is equal to the wind coming down, and I think that you could probably call that a stall.
Q: General, when will you start flying the test models and when do you expect to start flying the production models? And would it be fair to say that you've, while the tests are still going on, while you investigation isn't wound up, but you've virtually rule out the mechanical failure end?
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: That's correct. And what do you have now, five questions -- (cross talk).
Q: Then you've virtually ruled out mechanical failure?
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: We have ruled out mechanical failure, and I've got the rest of it. I briefed the secretary of Defense yesterday and have talked with the commandant on several occasions. We were planning on flying the first aircraft this afternoon, which we were going to bring back from Nova Scotia, as I told you before, for those of you that haven't heard that. It was up there for a de-icing test, and it was going to come back this afternoon. And it's my understanding, in walking down here, that the weather is going to preclude that, so that they will probably fly that aircraft back tomorrow.
Q: All right, and how about the production models? When are you --
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: The production models we're still planning on doing a phased approach. As far as the Naval Air Systems Command is concerned, all V-22s are up and safe for flight at this time.
However, as I've told you before and as the commandant has said before, we're going to do a phased approach. We did the taxi engine run-ups first. Now we're going to test the EMD birds. They are going to fly some flight profiles, but it has nothing to do with the other V-22s flying. We just don't plan on flying them in close proximity to each other or at a high rate of descent until the further tests are done at Pax River. And I suspect it'll be one to two weeks before the operational birds are back in the air, but that's up to the commandant of the Marine Corps, General Jones.
Yes, sir. And then I'll get you.
Q: Sir, how fast was he descending, and was he descending within the envelope of flight, or has this accident redefined what the proper envelope is?
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: How fast was he descending? He was descending over a thousand feet per minute. The envelope of flight is recommended at 800 -- not to exceed 800 feet per minute below 40 knots of air speed.
Q: Well, was that before or after the power settling incident happened, before he saw -- I mean, was he in a controlled descent on --
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: I'll get you in a minute, sir. We've got --
Q: Are you issuing any changes to that flight envelope or to recommendations to pilots --
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: No changes are being made right now to the flight envelope. We're sticking with 800 feet per minute on the rate of descent below 40 knots. And we will see what the evaluation from Pax River comes with the birds that are equipped with the test material out there.
Yes, sir. I'll take --
Q: But the question is, was he still in control of the flight at a thousand feet per minute descent, or was that after he had already -- the stall had onset?
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: There are things -- that would be speculation on my part. I think, my personal opinion -- and we'll have to wait until the board gets out -- is when he went into the 15 degrees angle of bank, that at that point in time he went into power settling. But that's a Fred McCorkle opinion. The mishap board is still investigating that. They've got the best engineers around, who are a heck of lot better than me in looking at things like that.
Q: Your diagram indicates his descent was less than that at the beginning.
Q: Just to try to understand --
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: No, this gentleman here, and I'll get you next.
Q: Thank you.
Sir, did the pilots have enough hours under Marine Corps regulations to be flying --
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: They had enough hours under Marine Corps regulations. A lot of people have discussed this before, and these were very, very experienced pilots. We had one 53 pilot, a previous 53 pilot in the aircraft. A C-130 pilot I believe as at the controls. He had 3,777 hours. I've sat in this building, and I had a four-star general introduced to the very experienced aviator that had 2,500 hours actual total time. So 3,777 is a lot. He had approximately a hundred hours in the simulator, in the MV-22 simulator, and he had a little over -- well, I can tell you exactly what he had. I thought I could tell you exactly what he had.
Q: My question was, is that a sufficient number of hours under Marine Corps regulations to be flying passengers?
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: And the answer is, that is very, very true. I don't think you were here before, but I said when I transitioned to the C-12, I had eight hours and carried a couple of three-star generals in the back as passengers when I was an old guy as a one-star general.
Just for the audience out here and anyone that didn't know it -- and I didn't know it at the press conference -- the next time you get on a commercial airplane, you might want to check with the guy in the right seat, because the first time that he ever carries passengers is on his first flight in a commercial airplane. They do all their work-ups in a simulator, and then they go out.
Q: There are just a couple things I want to make sure I understand. First off, regarding the flight envelope, you said that below 40 knots, the maximum rate of descent should be 800 feet a minute, but you do not know if he reached this rate of 1,000 feet per minute before or after the power settling began?
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: We know that he was over 1,000 feet per minute. We think that he was over 1,000 feet per minute all the way down on the descent.
Q: So he was outside the flight envelope before losing control of the aircraft.
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: If that's the flight envelope, and we believe it is, that's a true statement.
Q: Okay. And the other thing I want to make sure I understand, you mentioned the 15-degree angle of bank. That's the pilot inputting that control?
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: The pilot input five degrees angle of bank. I believe that it went to 15 degrees angle of bank, but it was somewhere between five and 15 degrees angle of bank that he put in himself, and I think that was to move back onto the vector with a little bit of right rudder. As soon as the aircraft started rolling over, then he put in full left stick.
Q: So there was some initial -- to put it in layman's terms, some initial rocking to the left that he was correcting for, and there was an over-correction?
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: No, not an over-correction. When you back up and you either put in rudder, if the ball's out of the middle, or you put in a little bit of stick, you know, to line yourself up on the bearing out there, he put in about five to 15 degrees angle of bank to line himself up on the bearing.
Q: How unusual is power settling? Do you recall it as a call of previous helicopter crashes?
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: I can tell you that I've been in power settling in Vietnam before when I did a descent at 6,000 feet to go into a hot zone. I had no clue what I was in as a first lieutenant at that time, much less experienced than these individuals on this aircraft. But it is not common in helicopters now.
I seldom read that on helicopter crashes. I could get you that information on how many are attributed to that over the last five years or so. But I don't think very often.
Yes, sir? Back here.
Q: Sir, what is the normal procedure for getting out of such a ring vortex state? And secondly, would the handling pilot, who we understand was the fixed-wing pilot, have had training in vortex ring state recovery, as opposed to training in just the V-22?
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: That's a very good question and one which -- I was quite frankly surprised when I saw the answer to it. On vortex ring state, the procedure is to actually take power off and to add forward stick. As a C-130 pilot, I would think that if you got slow, that you would add forward stick, as all fixed-wing guys -- and I'm also a fixed-wing guy -- would do. You know that you would add forward stick.
I think that at the time that he realized that he was in power settling, if he realized it -- at the time he realized he was in trouble, I think that it was too late, that the right wing was already stalled.
And most of the time, if you're in a vortex ring state -- like I said, when I was into it at above 6,000 feet -- you push the nose over to gain air speed and ease off a little bit of power, and then, as you get your air speed back, you pull power in. They did not have the opportunity, in my opinion, at 280 feet. But that will be something that the mishap board will also look at.
Q: So when -- at what point here in this -- in your last six seconds of flight, was he in trouble? And then do you have -- right there --
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: Right here [points to 280 feet].
Q: Right there. Okay. When he started to roll, he was in -- already in trouble?
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: I think that when he started to roll, that he was already in trouble. I think that -- and once again, this is something that the engineers are going to look at, and -- but I will say that, in my opinion, when he hit 15 degrees angle bank, that he was in big trouble at that time.
Q: No correction possible at that point, then?
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: I'd have to talk to the aero guys about that. But it's my opinion it would have been very difficult for him to recover at that point.
Q: And secondly, do you have the flight data on what happened from the last four seconds?
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: This is the last four seconds -- all the way down to one second. The last second is not on the flight data recorder. All the rest of it is on there.
Q: General, do the rotors turn the same direction?
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: Yes.
Q: I believe previously you had talked about --
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: Well, I say that --
Staff: (Off mike.)
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: They're opposite directions, I believe. (To staff) Right?
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: Yeah, they are opposite direction, just like the CH-46.
Q: Is there an aerodynamic factor, like somewhat with the P factor with a single-prop airplane where the air current -- it's better for the aircraft to spin a certain way -- for the air current to spin a certain way?
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: No. It's my opinion -- and once again, it's Fred McCorkle's opinion because I'm not an expert on it, but I've heard people say that aerodynamically, you know, that the flow of air with the rotors in the proximity that they are when it's in the helicopter mode is not disturbed in any way.
Q: Okay. The other thing I was going to ask, when you talked about them landing -- some earlier tests done when they were still in test -- landing on an aircraft apparently next to the structure, I think it was Space 7, Space 8, where it's also hanging a bit over the ocean, and it had a tendency to draw into that structure. Is this related to this at all?
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: I don't think so. And I mentioned that before. I think that there were over 300 landings, but a heck of a lot of shipboard landings. But they had one where the wing dropped off and the wing was out overboard, and they corrected that with a software correction. And they found no software corrections -- with numerous engineers looking at this, they saw no software problems with the CMSU data.
I'll go back over here.
Q: General, is there any history in the V-22's background to suggest that this aircraft is more susceptible to either settling with power or power settling ???? than another type of helicopter or rotor craft?
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: No, absolutely not. In fact, I would say less, because of the amount of power that it's got.
Q: General, was it the excessive rate of descent that was the main reason that the aircraft entered the power settling, or was there other factors that created that condition?
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: We're not sure, and that's something that the Mishap Board is looking at right now. But the NATOPS says at 800, and once you're below 40 knots -- 40 knots or below, there's a warning in there that you could be -- put yourself in power settling.
Q: Is there any reason to know -- or to inspect why the aircraft was descending at that high a rate of speed?
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: The only reason that I would have would be either that he had let himself get high sometime during the approach, you know, or --
Q: That he what? I'm sorry, what did you mean by that?
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: That he hadn't descended soon enough, but that's also something that the board's looking at. And I couldn't -- it's really not appropriate for me to speculate on that.
The gentleman back there?
Q: Yeah. Have you taken the flight data and put it in simulators and been able to duplicate what happened?
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: We have taken the flight data, we have put it in simulators; and we have not been able to duplicate what happened because a vortex ring state has not been put into the computers, in the simulators.
Yes, sir? Back there.
Q: Is there any impact on the schedule for the V-22 program? Will the full-scale production decision still be in October, I believe?
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: It is my opinion, and my very strong opinion, that the aircraft will stay on schedule and on cost as it is. We see no problems whatsoever with the aircraft. We think we are going to be able to complete op eval, and we are going to full-rate production in October.
Q: Is it correct to say that pilot error is to blame for this accident?
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: No, it's not correct to say that. And as I asked everyone, you know at the start, I would really appreciate it if you didn't speculate on that until after the mishap board has reported out. We feel like that we have enough information to say that it was not mechanical. There are a lot of things that the board is looking at: And why was the pilot at this rate of descent? Why was he in this position at this time? And it would be very inappropriate at this time to say that it was pilot error.
Q: Are there any warnings in the cockpit that notify the crew that they have exceeded the flight envelope?
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: None that I know of on the rate of descent. You have a VSI in there, which tells you how many feet per minute you are descending. But there is no warning light that comes on because at different times, you'll be going at a different rate of descent, particularly if you are up at a higher altitude. And as I said, there's no way that I know of that you can do a stall warning on the props of any aircraft.
Q: Was the first helicopter descending at the same high rate of descent?
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: The first helicopter -- when you have your flight data recorder -- is erased if the aircraft continues to run, because it only does the last seven minutes of the flight.
So when he went up and he was running, it erased, but he had another flight data recorder on there which was called a VSLED [vibration, structural life and engine diagnostics], and the information that we have from that, which is not nearly as accurate, but was no, that he was not at the same rate of descent as dash-two.
Q: Are the fuel cells on the Osprey eventually going to be redesigned and if so, why?
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: And the answer to that is I've had a couple of people ask me that and the answer is no. There is no redesign on the fuel cells. However, they are going to be changed going into lot three. But the fuel cells that the Osprey has on it right now are the expandable fuel cells, which are far better than anything that I've ever flown with in 34 years in the Marine Corps. But they've taken them out and they've tested them, they've dropped them from altitudes -- and I don't know what altitude -- and the rubber expands. That's the reason they're called expandable, so that it don't break. I think that if you take any aircraft and, as I said before, and you point it straight nose-down at the ground and you hit at that impact, then the fuel cells are going to break.
Now, there is a new fuel cell that's coming in, in the LRIP [low rate initial production] three aircraft and V-22s, and I think we're on 16 now. I think those fuel cells come in on 19. But the fuel cells that the Osprey's got on it, I am very confident in are the best fuel cells that we've ever had on any aircraft.
Q: You've described the pilot as the best in his squadron. Does it trouble you that he was unable to pull out of this?
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: It troubles me that we lost two personal friends of mine from the time that they were first lieutenants, and I know their wives and their families, and I am absolutely heartbroken. I am absolutely crushed that they didn't pull out of it, and that has one hell of lot more to do with it -- with the families than it does with the aircraft. And it's really beyond me why they didn't, and that's the reason I'm so involved in the board and in trying to make sure that this board is done right.
Q: General, just so we understand each other, how many seconds, or do you know the time that elapsed, from the time that the pilot went from horizontal flight to vertical flight? I take it he was not in the transitional phase in the last six seconds, so he was in the vertical phase. Am I correct with that?
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: That's correct, yes, sir.
Q: And then to get to something that bothers me, a possible anomaly, if this guy was a C-130 driver, he's now, for all intents and purposes, a helicopter pilot in that last six seconds, correct?
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: That's correct.
Q: So his 3700 hours really don't come to play very much in this. How many hours did he actually have, helicopter time?
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: Like I said, in the MV-22 he had approximately 85 hours, he had approximately a hundred hours in the simulator. But this, if he is in vortex ring state at this time, like I said, if he had any talents, the talents of being a C-130 pilot would be with him one heck of a lot more than me being a helicopter pilot. And I'll also repeat that after eight hours I was flying a King Air, you know, with three-star generals in the back. So it's a -- the number of hours. This individual was looked at -- and I went to two funerals and two memorial services. And for Major, Lieutenant Colonel-select Brow, I went to both his memorial service and the funeral. And every pilot in that squadron said that they had really learned a lot from him and that he was a great helicopter pilot. And we -- as you know, we all think we're the best, and I had numerous guys say this guy was better than me. And that's good enough for me.
Q: Did the 15-degree turn, did that contribute to the vortex ring state, or is that merely coincidental point of flight that you note for us?
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: That's something that we really have to have the board look at, but I would say if you're right on the edge and you put in an angle of bank or a rudder, that that was probably where the airflow, if you will, over the rotors, you know, was stalled, which was a word that we used before. And I think that that's probably what caused it.
Q: So the rapid rate of descent alone might not have done it, but that combined with the banking.
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: Yeah, I think there was a combination of things in there.
Q: General, what's the Marine Corps' reasoning behind resuming the flights before the crash investigation board finishes its work and comes out with its report?
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: Well, as I stated yesterday, I think that this is the longest in the history of naval aviation that we have ever held an aircraft down without some kind of a grounding or a red stripe or whatever else on it without flying it again. And the commandant of the Marine Corps and -- out of respect for the families, and then to say, "Hey, we would really like to know to tell the public, you know, that there are no mechanical failures and that there are no software failures before we put the aircraft back in the air," and we've -- we're rock-solid on that now.
So we have waited really a heck of a long time in order to put the airplane back in the air. And I don't -- to my knowledge -- and I've been around 34 years -- I don't think that's ever happened with any other airplane, including the F-117, you know, even when it was a secret aircraft.
Q: Strictly as a precautionary measure, will the test pilots receive any additional training or information about how to avoid trouble with power settling or settling with power?
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: Well, I think what they will do is they will take -- and the test cards have been written. I haven't seen them. But I think what they will probably do is take this aircraft up to altitude and will actually get into power settling and settling with power, and see how the aircraft reacts and see how you get out of it or whatever else. So that's what they're really going to do with the EMD or the test vehicles and the test pilots out at Pax River, to say, "What are the envelopes? Is the 800 feet per-minute rate of descent really a good -- and is below 40 knots really good?"
Q: This is different from what you would have been doing, had the accident not occurred. This is something new, right?
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: I'm not so sure, because EMD birds were going to continue flying. I can tell you that these specific flight cards were not written until the accident occurred.
Q: Is power settling in the simulator that Major Brow would have flown?
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: I'm not sure, and I'll check on that to see. (Pause.) I'll see you later about stumping me on a question, too. (Laughter.) That's -- (inaudible) --
Q: General, you said that it's not possible to have a stall warning on a rotary aircraft. But wouldn't it be possible to have software changed so that you could not go into a bank like this when you were at this rate of descent and at this speed? The software could be adjusted to keep a pilot from doing that, couldn't it?
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: Well, see, depending on what your altitude is -- and like I mentioned, when I was in this at 6,000 feet, there are times -- like this aircraft is at 9,500 feet, and you want to get in on a NEO or whatever, you may want to go 45 degrees angle bank and 2,000 feet per-minute rate of descent, or whatever, so that if you have a software, then you wouldn't be able to do that. So what you need to do is to realize this -- what the area is when you're getting close to the ground.
Q: You could override the software. The software could just warn you, and you could still have the capability of overriding it, couldn't you?
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: We'll have to check with the aerodynamics guys. And to do that, as our aircraft today have so many warnings on them, you know, that once you get up to a pilot overload, you know, if you've got 100 warnings in the cockpit, then you would end up disregarding them.
Yes, sir, back here.
Q: For a helicopter pilot going in a hot LZ, getting down fast is usually highly desirable. Is an 800-foot-a-minute rate of descent, you know, compatible? Is that a good rate --
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: Not below 500 feet.
Q: How close was the first aircraft? And are you still looking at the turbulence that might have been caused by the first one as the primary cause?
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: As I stated, we're still looking at aircraft-to-aircraft turbulence and we're still looking at settling with power. But -- in fact, I read a couple of articles that said that they felt like it was a close proximity to the aircraft. I felt that two weeks ago, but not any more. I don't think that these aircraft -- and I'm not sure exactly how close that they were, but I think that they were perhaps 300 feet apart at this time.
Q: So there was no -- but you said that when you resume flight now, that you're going to keep them further apart? Is that right?
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: That's correct, because right now, as we're saying, that we're going to have a bubble of 200 feet between airplanes and with 50 feet of step-up, where you aren't flying beneath the guy in front of you.
Q: And that indicates that you still have concern, though, then, about this turbulence.
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: Up until we do the test at Pax River, we're going to do that, and that's because we're not putting -- we're not disregarding any of that, you know, and we're not eliminating any of that right now. It's still something that we're looking at.
Q: General, I just want to make sure I understand what happened. The planes yawed to the right before it crashed, and were both rotors affected by the vortex ring state?
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: In my opinion, both of them were not affected by the vortex ring state. I think when he went into the five degrees to 15 degrees angle of bank, somewhere in that area, and had a little bit of right rudder in there, that the airflow was probably disturbed off the right wing; and because it was lower or whatever, I don't know, but I think the left wing then lifted and the right wing went down, and I think that's when the angle of bank continued.
Q: So, when he started to do the 5 to 15 degree bank and you did full right rudder, what --
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: No, I didn't say he did full right rudder. I said he put in a right rudder correction.
Q: Okay, right rudder correction. What was he doing with the stick?
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: The stick was -- I think that on the flight data recorder, they said it was a .5, which is about 5 degree angle bank to the right.
And then he went to a 1.5, which is like 15 degrees angle-banked. Then once the aircraft started rolling, he went all the way back to the left, which was the exact proper response that he should make.
Q: So was he down-wind or out of the wind? And second question is: You didn't mention in your list of things the flaps, which I understand extend automatically.
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: That's good. I am sorry I left that out for you.
Q: The flaps worked okay?
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: They did.
Q: They were extended to the right?
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: I am not sure where they were extended, but they worked good.
Q: Okay. And what was the wind situation at the time?
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: The wind was -- as I briefed you all twice -- was reported to be calm. I understand that there was an aircraft that landed about 30 minutes before, a light civil aircraft that was flown by an individual that said that the winds were gusting and that they landed. And this was at Marana Airport.
There were also some reports of a 5- to 10-knot tailwind, when the crash occurred. Whether or not -- and that's also one of the things that the mishap board is looking at, as to what were the winds really, you know -- do we have that data recorded somewhere, you know? Does somebody have that, you know, out of a weather station, you know, on what they actually had there? And would it affect the vortex ring state?
Q: You just said that the air flow was disturbed off the right wing. You meant the wing, not the rotor; is that right?
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: I meant the rotor.
Q: Do you know from autopsy reports what the cause of deaths was of the 19 Marines? Was it the impact, or was it a subsequent event?
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: No. I have not read the autopsy reports. But I can tell you I have heard a lot of conjecture, particularly with the fuel cells or whatever. But I cannot imagine -- and I have actually seen the crash site, you know, and the damage or whatever. When this aircraft impacted, it impacted nose down and was in an area of about 10 feet -- the main crash site -- 10 feet by 4 feet. I could not imagine anyone surviving that.
And I personally felt like, you know, the conjecture on that, what the families out there, is -- whoever wrote that in the past. And I haven't read it myself. But I just don't think that's very much respect for the families because I cannot imagine anyone surviving that type of crash.
Q: So when you go back to test as it appears that you will, and test with these factors in mind, you will not be hauling any Marines for -- how long?
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: How long depends on the commandant of the Marine Corps. Like I said, we are going to go into fly the EMD birds first. It will be a phased approach. I would suspect that once these aircraft are flying -- and they don't have to fly anything for the V- 22s to be up. We want to do it in a phased approach, to say: "What have you flown, you know? What do you see?" And I would suspect, one to weeks, that we will start the warm-ups for the MV-22s. And all of that will depend on the commandant of the Marine Corps, General Jones.
Warm-ups for our MV-22 pilots and "back in the saddle" program, if you will, and then they will resume the op eval. And General Jones, whenever this is, and General Ryan, if they can do it at the same time, they expect to go out together and fly -- and be the first passengers carried on the MV-22 op eval airplanes.
Q: How many production birds would you have? How many production birds will be flying? Four?
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: We have four production birds right now. There's another one that's near ready for release out of Texas.
Q: Sir, I'm sorry to make you go through the geometry one more time, but when the aircraft is banking, both of these rotors are obviously at the same angle, and yet only one of them gets into the stall phenomenon. It is the one that's on the downhill side. And why? Because the fuselage is blocking the flow of air to it? Why one and not the other? We've turned right slightly, and the right side is down. So we've got both a yaw and a pitch to this?
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: Well, the air flow -- in aerodynamics, each blade, of course, has its own air flow over it. So if you're sitting there with the two blades out and one of them dips, then the air flow over this rotor is completely different than the air flow over this one. And I'm not sure what rudder would do to that, you know, what angle a bank would do to that. And that's one of the reasons that the mishap board is taking its time and having the engineers look at it. But you can certainly stall one wing on a Piper Cub without stalling the other wing, or on a big airplane.
Q: (Off mike) -- turn, and usually the inside wing, right? Because you've got -- well, on the Piper you've got one wing shielded by the fuselage. In this configuration --
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: I'm sorry I mentioned Piper. I'm not a Piper expert -- (laughter).
Q: I learned to fly a Piper Cub, maybe I can --
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: So you'd like to answer that question, sir? Go ahead. (Laughter.)
Q: I'll have to take him outside. But one thing I do want to ask, when I was flying, there were --
Mr. Bacon: Ivan, hold on. There a lot of guys with their hands up. Let's go to Steve and Chris and --
Q: All right.
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: I'm sorry, I didn't even see Chris back there.
Q: I had a two-parter for you, actually. You said that the rate of descent was in excess of a thousand feet per minute. We've seen reports of 1,700 feet per minute. Can you be a little more specific about that? Was it 1,050 or --
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: Those are things that the mishap board are looking at. The 1,700 feet per minute rate of descent is data that's about two weeks old. And I know that you and I have talked several times, and a lot of the information that I had was data that was about two weeks old. I know that it was above 1,000 feet per minute. Seventeen hundred feet per minute, I have not seen on any of the data things in the last couple of weeks, Chris.
Q: All right.
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: I do know it was over 1,000 per minute. I'd rather not get into feet per minute. That's something that I'd like for the mishap board to use with their report out.
But I can tell you that the second aircraft -- his rate of descent was higher than the first aircraft, and it was over 1,000 feet per minute.
Q: And then the second part is, if the pilot was operating the plane outside of the allowable parameters, and there was an accident, then why is there no pilot error, no finding of pilot error?
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: Well, number one, as I've said numerous times, you know, that's the mishap board to find. Number two, it's illegal -- it's actually illegal for someone to say -- to make conjecture, you know, that it was transmission, that it was the rotor, that it was pilot error or whatever else until that mishap board reports out. So that's the reason that I asked for the sanctity of the board, you know, and the families that are waiting in there, too, you know, for the mishap board to report out.
But I can say, you know, that it was not mechanical and was not software.
Q: Right. I'm sorry. Three-partner. (Laughter.)
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: You were ready. You've been sitting in the back, you know --
Q: You can say -- yeah. But then would you say, in your opinion, is this clearly -- this excessive rate of descent a contributing factor? Is that clear?
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: I will wait on the mishap board to say that, because once again, I'm not authorized to even make conjecture on that.
On things that I can, that I don't think will affect the board, like do I think the right rotor stalled? Yes, I do.
Q: General, if I could just get you to explain, in the maneuver that these guys were performing, what the crash pilot's responsibility was in relation to the other aircraft -- was he trying to maintain a specific distance from the other aircraft, land exactly simultaneously before and after him, or what?
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: I'm not sure. I wasn't at the brief, and I haven't talked to the individuals in the lead airplane. But normally, when you're on a mission like this, whether you're in a fixed-wing airplane or in a helicopter, your job is to stay with the guy in front of you and -- and I know he moved from the seven o'clock over to the three o'clock position, and then back on the bearing, and then right after that he crashed.
So they should land at about the same time. They were planning on going in, dropping off 15 passengers each, to take down the airfield. And so they flew out together all the way from Yuma at 9,500 feet. They let down. The field, I think, is somewhere above 2,000 feet elevation, and passing through 3,000 feet AGL, they were pretty much in step there. And I think that it was his mission, you know, to go in and land about the same time as Dash One.
Q: And we don't know -- or do we? -- how long before this six-second point the excessive rate of descent started.
In other words, by the time he was at six seconds, the rate of descent was excessive. It was over the 800 feet. How long before that had he been coming at that rate?
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: All I have looked at is the last thousand feet; and the last thousand feet, he was over a thousand feet per minute.
Q: And do we know -- or is there any -- I don't know if there is any voice in the flight data you have -- but at any time, did anybody say, "You are dropping too fast," or, "Watch it"?
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: There were no voice reports from the mishap aircraft from either pilot.
Q: You said earlier that vortex-ring state is unusual in post-Vietnam helicopters. Did I understand you correctly?
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: You understood me correctly. And I hope that you won't go out and say there were 43 of them last year because --
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: -- I haven't heard of them.
Q: While the V-22 isn't purely a helicopter, as we all know, and its configuration is obviously different with the wings under the rotors, does this give you any concern about the design? -- I am not suggesting scrap the program or they are going to redesign it -- but in the way that you fly it; that all of a sudden you are back to having to be concerned about the situation that you had in Vietnam?
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: I would say zero concern. I have flown this airplane. And I wouldn't trade this airplane for a hundred CH-46s, as far as the power, the maneuverability and everything else that's it's got.
Q: It wouldn't play any role in cutting off air flow, up to the rotors above them?
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: Not that I know of, but that's another aerodynamic question. But I don't think it plays on this accident.
Q: General, did you or Commandant Jones notify the folks on the Hill about your decision -- up on Capitol Hill -- your decision to start flying again? And were they okay with it?
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: We did, and they are okay with it. I have never seen a program supported as much as the MV-22 program on the Hill. As you know, our IOC was supposed to be 1991; it's now the year 2000. So we're flying (CH)-46s older than me. But the answer is, yes, the commandant has talked to a lot of individuals on the Hill. I have briefed a lot of congressmen and a lot of staffers on the Hill. And I haven't met one that isn't fine with it, returning to fly.
Mr. Bacon: You have one more question.
Thank you very much.
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: Thank you.
Mr. Bacon: Do you guys want to take a break?
No? All right.
Q: There you go.
Q: Keep it short.
Lt. Gen. McCorkle: I would like to take a break, so -- (laughter) -- I'll see you guys. (Laughter, cross talk.).............................