The Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft will begin US Navy sea trials at the end of this month, as engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) nears completion and final design of the air force's CV-22 special operations version is frozen.

Aircraft 10, the fourth and final EMD vehicle, will deploy on the amphibious assault ship USS Saipan in January for a month of sea trials off the US east coast. Deployment will be preceded by electromagnetic compatibility tests to ensure there is no interference with the ship's electrical systems.

Shipboard capability testing will entail performing a range of US Marine Corps operational scenarios, folding the V-22's wing and rotors for below flightdeck hangar storage and routine level aircraft maintenance while at sea, says Bell military tiltrotor executive director Jack Gallagher.

The USMC's VMMT 204 training squadron at MCAS New River is scheduled to take delivery of its first MV-22B production aircraft on 24 May, 1999. A second aircraft will be handed over in July and the third tiltrotor - the first to be completed at Bell's Amarillo plant - will follow in August.

EMD will conclude with eight months of operational evaluation, starting in September. "We've got 1,000 hours on all four EMD aircraft at Patuxent River," says Gallagher. "We've completed the flight envelope on the aircraft touching all four corners. We'll complete powerplant demonstrations in 1999 and are about 90% complete on EMD."

With the last in a series of 12 design reviews of the CV-22 finished in December, work starts in April on remanufacturing EMD Aircraft 7 and 9 to the USAF special operations configuration. The first production representative CV-22 makes its first flight in October and will be delivered to the USAF at Edwards AFB in 2000 for 12 months of testing.

Bell Boeing, in response to USMC pressure for accelerated deliveries of its planned 360 MV-22s, has submitted proposals to the DoD to increase production from 30 to 36 aircraft a year by 2003.

Source: Flight International