Titlrotor thrill-ride impresses the press

US East Coast editor Stephen Trimble reports from the field:

“Media day” usually means one thing to serious aviation journalists: FREEBIES! And the best freebie is a ride on a new kind of aircraft. So you can imagine the appeal of the V-22 Media Day on 13 July.

I and about 50 other journalists showed up to get our first ride on this split-personality phenomenon of flight known as the tiltrotor. For this, we had trekked to the US Marine Corps’ remote V-22 Osprey training base in North Carolina’s coastal marshes, a journey which involved a brave test of US Airways’ ability to cope with the remnants of Hurricane Dennis. (Dennis won, by the way.)

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The USMC set the long day’s itinerary. It consisted of a brief aerial demonstration, multiple briefings, then about four hours of … really nothing at all. Just waiting. Finally came the 30-minute flight and, curiously, a short awards ceremony. Alas, the awards were for the V-22 squadron, not the journalists.

I can highly recommend the USMC’s tiltrotor thrill-ride. The highlight was a fast, 180-degree turn inducing 2g loads. Depending on your tolerances, you’d either appreciate or be horrified by the USMC’s informal approach to cabin safety. Imagine being encouraged to roam the cabin freely, untethered, with the rear cargo ramp wide open and the pilot manoeuvring aggressively. The few, the proud … the reckless?

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I can’t decide if the transition from vertical to horizontal mode was impressive or a disappointment. I guess I had hoped to feel some obvious force signaling that my helicopter was turning itself into a turboprop, but the transitions were almost imperceptible. Not long after our short take-off roll, a fellow passenger turned to me and asked: “Did the nacelles go down?” Indeed they had, but the only tip-off was our turboprop-like speed.

The V-22 naysayers may note the aircraft remains nearly two years away from its operational debut, but the USMC media day flight made a plausible case that the Osprey’s many programmatic sins of the past have been atoned for and overcome. And it was one heck of a freebie.

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