(11 APRIL 2000)

First and foremost, I would like to say that our thoughts and prayers are with the families of our Marines who were tragically taken from us Saturday night. Obviously, there are no words that can express our sadness and sense of loss in this situation. Our Marine Corps is a tight-knit family, and each of us feels the loss of these Marines. We are with the families now and we will continue to assist them in the difficult days ahead. Our number one concern at this time is their well-being.

While the mishap is currently under investigation, there are some things I would like to relay to you and then I will answer whatever questions I can.

The Commandant has sent Col Dennis Bartels from our staff to lead the expert investigation team. I spoke with Col Bartels last night and he has assured me that the investigation is well underway. There is, however, no determination at this time as to the cause of the mishap. Let me emphatically state that we are committed to finding the truth. One thing I want to clarify from my comments yesterday, the incident was observed on an F/A-18 FLIR but it was not

The aircraft was the second in a flight of two aircraft conducting a simulated evacuation operation. It was one of four MV-22s participating in this exercise to support Operational Evaluations (OpEval). OpEval is a DOD requirement specifically designed to validate an aircraft's operational capability to support USMC missions. It requires flights in operational configurations to include flights with embarked troops.

Our most precious asset is our Marines and their welfare is the primary concern of all Marines in leadership positions. Numerous senior service members and members of Congress have flown in the aircraft. I have flown the aircraft and believe it to be safe. It is important to stress that the MV-22 is not an experimental test aircraft. The MV-22 is a proven technology. The Osprey has already completed extensive flight testing that included:

Almost 1200 flight hours of Full Scale Development (1-6), and
1600 flight hours of Engineering/Manufacturing Development (7-10),

The mishap aircraft was one of five production aircraft delivered to the Marine Corps for operational use. The four aircraft participating in OpEval, all delivered in the past 11 months, have accumulated over 840 flight hours conducting operational flights in support of OpEval. This particular aircraft was delivered to the Marine Corps in January of this year and had been flown over 135 hours to date. The total amount of flight time accumulated by MV-22s to date is over 3600 hours.

The two pilots flying the aircraft were very experienced, veteran pilots from Marine Helicopter Squadron One. One had nearly 3800 hours and the other had over 2100 hours. Both pilots were approaching 100 hours of flight time in the MV-22 and had over 100 MV-22 simulator hours.
Additionally, the aircraft was crewed by two of our very finest enlisted Marines.

The aircraft is equipped with a Crash Survivable Memory Unit (CSMU) that records 227 separate aircraft parameters that should provide invaluable insight into the cause of this mishap. These parameters include aircraft performance data (airspeed, altitude, heading, etc), engine performance data and information on any potential system malfunctions indicated. Efforts to retrieve this component from the aircraft are ongoing.

We are distributing a photo of the Marana Northwest Regional Airport that depicts the intended point of landing for the flight of the two aircraft involved. This package also contains a data sheet and information relating to the exercise being conducted.

Throughout this tragic and challenging time, we have been supported by a number of local law enforcement agencies, fire departments and National Guard and reserve units in Arizona. The American Red Cross continues to provide support on the scene. We truly appreciate their superb support in these efforts to take care of our Marines.

Our work as Marines comes with some danger and risks, but we strive to do everything we can to minimize those risks. As Secretary Danzig so aptly stated Sunday, "Evaluating new equipment and training for war, like war itself, puts life at risk. In peace and war, Marines accept that risk -- it is a bond between us. In that spirit we grieve today for our lost Marines."

Finally, I would like to conclude by again saying that our thoughts and prayers are with the families of our fallen Marines. We are taking care of the families now and will continue to assist them in every way possible in the difficult days ahead. I will now answer what questions I can at this point.