Sir - Why cancel the Lockheed Martin/Boeing F22, McDonnell Douglas F18E/F, or even the Joint Strike Fighter, purely to accelerate delivery of the Bell-Boeing V-22 tiltrotor? (Flight International, 23-29 April, P18).
I had wondered why certain US politicians had been trying to make out that the F18E/F "-didn't do anything the C/D can't do" - now I know. Could this desperate haste see the V-22 in production have its origins in the sleepy UK town of Yeovil?
Somebody obviously wants the Clinton Administration committed to a multi-year V-22 contract before Yeovil-based GKN Westland demonstrates how much might be achieved with a compound-lift retrofit of existing helicopters (Flight International 1-7 January, P6).
Of course, if GKN Westland could be bullied into dropping its demonstrator, the deadly urgency of the V-22 lobby might dissipate. A less accommodating response would be to switch from a Lynx airframe for the demonstrator to a Sikorsky Blackhawk. After all, having been prepared to build this model on licence, GKN Westland must understand the structure as well as anyone. I imagine that any US President, even the present one, could, if he saw it actually flying, grasp the implications of two-thirds of tilt-rotor performance across the whole of his existing, 3,000-plus Blackhawk fleet (not to mention Sikorsky CH-53 and possibly even McDonnell Douglas AH-64s). Perhaps there are US Congressmen would be pleased if they manage to tie Clinton's hands before he sees footage of the GKN Westland demonstrator in flight.
There is also an interesting question of protocol here: will that far-sighted man, Admiral Philips, be allowed to wear his Queen's Award for Industry next to his medals, or will it be confined to his desk? That's assuming the new/re-elected Government in the UK does not contrive to throw this opportunity into the same bin their predecessors have thrown so many others.
It really has got wings on this time. Let it fly.
Shefford, Bedfordshire, UK
Source: Flight International