Neither a helicopter or a fixed-wing aircraft, yet both - the Bell Boeing V-22 tiltrotor's uniqueness is what makes it special and incredibly difficult to defend. The V-22 design is a study in aerodynamic compromises that confounds purists. It is either too short-bladed for a helicopter or absurdly long-bladed for a turboprop. Yet no other helicopter zooms to 240kt (445km/h) and no other turboprop lands on small-deck carriers.
Smart people can argue whether these benefits outweigh the V-22's considerable costs.
It does not help that the V-22 is tainted by a legacy of scandal. Falsified maintenance records by the US Marine Corps test squadron leave a bad taste even a decade later. There continues to be gross negligence by suppliers. The engine air particle separator alone accounts for catastrophic fires on three aircraft.
© Bell Helicopters
But the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee missed a chance during a scandalmongering hearing on 23 June to ask the right questions. Rather than call Bell Boeing to account for acknowledged lapses in supply chain and design maturity, the legislators settled for recycled aerodynamic criticisms.
If there are scandals, they are more mundane. Is it a scandal that the USMC and the contractor have allowed one poorly designed component - EAPS - to waste three $93 million aircraft? Is it a scandal that the icing protection system - an engineering challenge conquered more than half a century ago - continues to fail on the V-22? Is it a scandal that a lack of supplies forces the USMC to cannibalise other aircraft in the field?
Scandal or not, one thing is certain. After capably serving 18 months in Iraq, the V-22 tiltrotor deserves better than this.
Source: Flight International