Holding the Government Accountable

V-22 Osprey: Ice Ice Baby

We at POGO thought that a $100 million dollar aircraft that can't do combat maneuvers was bad enough. Now we learn that the V-22 Osprey doesn't yet have the operational de-icing systems or weather radar that allow it to fly into clouds.

An icing problem was apparently the root cause for an Air Force version of the V-22 Osprey running into trouble while enroute to Edwards Air Force Base in California last week. Our sources say CV-22 #6 experienced a compressor stall of both engines after flying into a cloud at 18,000 feet, presumably because of icing problems. The Osprey, our sources say, didn't recover from the engine problem until it reached warmer air around 10,000 feet. As a precaution the aircraft landed in Prescott, Arizona—where its engines were changed out.

The Navy, which honchos both the Marines and Air Force V-22 programs, says that technically the engines didn't shut down and that the incident wasn't as serious as it might seem. Yet, they admit the V-22, after 20 years in development, doesn't have a tested de-icing system, nor does it have weather radar onboard. The October 18 incident has been dubbed a “Class C mishap”—meaning the aircraft sustained damages between $20,000 and $200,000.

The Pentagon already has approved the aircraft for full-rate production, yet the Navy says the V-22 de-icing systems are still being tested. Even so, pilots don't really need it, they say. Instead they're instructed to just avoid bad weather conditions. Of course, bad weather should be avoided, but sometimes it can't. Should an aircraft not ready for combat or clouds be approved for full-rate production?

Whether the incident was serious or not, it certainly raises some serious questions about the limitations of the V-22.