DoD News Briefing
DoD News Briefing
Lt. Gen. Fred McCorkle, deputy commandant of the Marine Corps for Aviation
Tuesday, December 12, 2000 - 11:05 a.m. EST
(Special briefing on the MV-22 Osprey crash)
McCorkle: Since I just saw Jamie McIntyre there about a week ago, I was hoping I was never going to see him again down in this room. But --
Q: Our sentiments exactly, General!
McCorkle: Thanks very much. I talked to the commandant this morning and was going to do this around 8:00, and we tried to pick a time that would be better for everybody, even though none of it is good. But I wanted to come down and see you personally and talk about the accident that we had last night.
As most of you know, we lost another MV-22 last night down in New River. I'll give you a little bit of background, start off by saying these individuals, like in the last accident, I was very personally involved with and I'm very saddened, and our hearts go out to their families, as I know yours do too.
They were doing an instrument mission last night down in Jacksonville, North Carolina. I'll tell you the things that we know as of 03:30 - or 00:30 last night. All the families have been notified, so right now friends or family are with each one of the families.
This is what we know: that they took off from New River last night at 6:00 p.m. to conduct night instrument and landing practices. And the aircraft had completed its missions, a series of takeoffs and landings, and was returning to the air station. And it's my understanding - I'm not certain of this - that they were on an instrument approach back in, but they were about three minutes out from the airfield when they made a distress call which was a Mayday call. I was just telling someone the other day, very few people that crash these days make - particularly in military aircraft, make a call on the way down, and they did make a Mayday call.
The pilot gave no specifics on the nature of the situation, just that it was a Mayday.
Air traffic controllers at New River tried to raise them, and they couldn't, so they got a fix on where they were, and they were actually five to seven miles, depending on where you - who you talked to, from New River. It was in a wooded area, which was accessible only by four-wheel drive vehicles.
Since last night - and I talked to the MEF [Marine Expeditionary Force] commander last night a little after midnight; he was out at the scene and talked to several people down there - since last night, and after getting with the commandant this morning, we have suspended all of their MV-22 flight operations until we have more information on this accident.
I called Vice Admiral Dyer out at NAVAIRSYSCOM [Naval Air Systems Command] this morning and asked him to work together with us, because normally if you look at the Navy or the Marine Corps, we'll suspend flights. Only NAVAIR can ground the aircraft. So I said, "Let's do this together, and let's call it a suspension until we know more about the accident."
As is standard in this event, we have formed a mishap board. I recommended to the commandant this morning - and he concurred - that we have general officer to head this board.
Further, I met with Dr. Buchanan this morning, and after talking with the commandant, we have requested a delay in the decision to proceed with Milestone 3, pending the results of additional information, hopefully from the CSMU [Crash Survivable Memory Unit].
As many of you know, this program is very, very important to the Marine Corps, to me, and, I think, to the nation, and we're going to work very, very hard to see what caused the accident. Right now you know as much information as I know.
They have recovered the remains of three of our Marines out of the aircraft. They think they have the location of the other Marine. But three of them have been recovered. Both pilots were in that group, and I do not know the other individual's name who was recovered.
We also got or have found the CSMU in the aircraft, which, when I talked to you before about our accident out in Arizona - I've never seen one of those on any aircraft that I've ever flown in the Marine Corps. We have found its location. It looks like it's in good shape. And it would be premature for me to tell you when I think we'll have any information out of it, but we'll be working just as hard as we can to find out that information.
Q: What does the CSMU stand for?
McCorkle: Crash Survivable Memory Unit.
Q: That's the flight recorder and - the flight recorder?
McCorkle: Yeah. Yeah. And I'm very lucky that I could remember that name, on the CSMU.
Q: I'm sorry - is that voice and data, or just data? Voice and data, or just data?
McCorkle: Just data. And I'm not sure we can get you the numbers. I didn't bring any of that information with me because I just left the annex, but I think it does something like 272 different functions. But we can get you that information so that you know exactly what it is.
I can tell you all and, particularly, those of you that know me, I don't think that there's anything that we can say that would help this or make this easier for the families, except to say that the Marine Corps is going to do everything that it can do to find out what caused the accident, to take care of these families and to take care of our Marines.
I will answer a couple of questions from you. I don't have a lot of information, but I'll take what questions I can and then --
Q: General, is this program in deep trouble?
McCorkle: This program - we have never had anything happen to this aircraft that was not a human factors in the past. We don't know yet what caused this one. And I can say, yeah, that the program is in trouble, but this is, like a senior civilian in this building told me this morning, he said, "I went 17 years and never had a car accident." And he said, "Then I got up one morning and had an accident." And he said it wasn't a very bad one, the insurance paid it, and he said, "Less than a week later I had another accident." And he said, "I didn't have the accident" - you know - "certainly didn't mean to have the accident." And we don't know what was the cause of this yet.
I will still tell you that, having flown this aircraft and having been around the aircraft a lot of times, I don't think that there is anything else out there that rates with it, and whatever is wrong with it - or, if there was something wrong with it to cause this accident - we plan on finding out what it was and fixing it.
Q: Can you - three questions, a three-part question. Number one, do you know what mode the aircraft was in? Was it in straight and level flight, making what would be a normal approach to a runway?
Was it in vertical mode? Was it in transition?
The second thing is, this particular aircraft - you've flown it - we're told by some that it's not a very forgiving airplane, that it may be as difficult to fly as the old "A" model of the Harrier.
And third, is there a period when the plane goes from vertical to horizontal, or vice-versa, when there are major critical problems; not enough lift, not enough air speed, to cause perhaps the ring vortex or another kind of a stall?
McCorkle: I'll try to remember all three of those, but the first one, it would be premature, but I'll speculate anyway, since I've always been truthful with y'all. Since he's three minutes out, then I'm assuming that he's still in an airplane mode. But I don't know and we won't know until we get the CSMU. I would think that an aircraft that was still three minutes out, that's several miles out, seven miles out, that he would still be in the airplane mode.
Number two, when you talk about forgiving, you hear a lot of speculation from a lot of people that think that they know things. Everybody that I've talked to says that this is the easiest aircraft that they've ever flown. I just talked to a couple of you this week, and I can tell you that this is in - for someone that's flown over 50 different type model series of aircraft, if this one is not in the easiest aircraft I've ever flown, it's in the top two or three. Very, very forgiving aircraft with an incredible amount of power.
And on your last comment there, I consider NAVAIRSYSCOM and their engineers to be very conservative on the information that they give me. And that is not a derogatory comment, it's a good comment, because that keeps me safe. Having said that, all the expert engineers who I trust, and some of them I've known since I was a major in the Marine Corps, all say that on the design factors that they have thus far on vortex ring state, that this aircraft, instead of 800 feet per minute at 40 knots, that they would increase this envelope to 1,400 feet per minute, you know, in less than 40 knots. So instead of it being less forgiving, it looks like it's almost twice as forgiving as any of the helicopters that I fly.
I don't think vortex ring state had anything to do with this accident. And they got out a Mayday call, so I'm not going to speculate on that.
But they were about seven miles from the runway, so I would think that they were still in the fixed-wing mode.
Q: Yes, you said that you requested a delay in Milestone 3. I assume that's to go for full production. And could you just run us through a little bit, first of all, the cost per - what is the current cost projection per MV-22? And also, you were about to make that decision to go to full production, weren't you? What's the --
McCorkle: That's correct. And I didn't come down - if you'll forgive me - to talk about cost of the aircraft. I've done that before. We can get you a spreadsheet, if you want the cost, if you want the garage that goes with it. For those of you that I've talked to that say when somebody says $83 million, I just read - I would hope to sell you your car, your next one, where you buy a $23,000 Chevy and I build your garage and give you the tires and batteries for 20 years, that will be about $85,000. So when you put it that way - but we can get you the cost.
But we're really here to talk about the families; that we're trying to recover the bodies right now for these families and to find out what caused the accident.
Now, as far as the Milestone 3, we were looking at doing that a couple of weeks ago. We wanted more information for Dr. Buchanan. The Marine Corps are the ones that have asked to delay that until we find out what caused this accident - or find out more information on it. And I talked to Dr. Buchanan about that this morning. Originally, when we looked at this earlier in the year, we were looking at not doing a Milestone 3 decision until March or April of '01. So there's a lot of time. It's not like that this was a "do it now or never do it" deal. So it was March or April of next year that we were originally looking at. We had the opportunity to move it all the way back to November, so we were going to do that.
Q: Several questions. The commandant, I guess, is asking the secretary of Defense to begin a panel to look at the V-22?
McCorkle: I'm not sure. You'll have to talk to the commandant or to the secretary of Defense to ask them about that. That certainly is not out of the scope.
As far as a mishap board, I've recommended to the commandant, and he is going to call the CINC of SOCOM [commander in chief of the Special Operations Command], and he's also going to call General Ryan and ask that an individual from SOCOM and an Air Force individual be put on the accident team. What he's doing with the secretary, I'm not sure; he's going to see him later on today. But that's between them.
Q: A couple of other follow-ups. Do you know anything about the weather situation at the time, or the altitude of the aircraft when it began to run into trouble?
McCorkle: No, the - for someone that's flown a lot of GCAs [ground controlled approaches] down there on instrument approaches, the altitude is normally around 1,600 feet. So I would assume that they were at 1,600 feet or in that area. The weather at the time was, I believe, and correct me if I'm wrong, about 2,500 feet scattered and about 4,000 broken, and they had six miles visibility.
Q: And the other thing, can you tell us anything about the experience level of the pilot that flew this aircraft? His experience level in the MV-22?
McCorkle: He's an individual that has briefed the commandant, the CNO and everyone else, and his next of kin has been notified, and it's Lieutenant Colonel Sweaney. And if I flew with anyone, I think, out of the entire Marine Corps, where I'd be in the back, I'd want to be with Lieutenant Colonel Sweaney.
Q: Did he have, then, a lot of experience on the V-22?
McCorkle: More than anyone else.
Q: What's his first name, sir?
Q: General, if I could just follow up on that, on her question there?
Q: First name?
McCorkle: Right here, and then I'll come back to you. Keith Sweaney. Lieutenant Colonel Keith Sweaney.
Q: Sir, I just wanted to ask about the delay that you've requested. Do you have a time frame? I understood that Buchanan --
McCorkle: No, I don't have a time frame, but we - I was told this morning by Dr. Buchanan and Mr. Bill Stussie that April or longer was no problem as far as making the Milestone 3 decision, so I suspect that a long time before then that the commandant of the Marine Corps will make his recommendation to Dr. Buchanan.
Q: Now, he was to have made the decision by the 18th or the week thereof on whether or not to approve --
McCorkle: I think that that schedule was done now on the 21st of this month. We have asked, as I stated, that that be delayed.
McCorkle: Yes, sir.
Q: On this crash, any indication of an onboard fire? And does this crash look to you like the Quantico crash that the V-22 had a few years ago?
McCorkle: No, it absolutely doesn't. And the Quantico crash from a few years ago was an aircraft that, it is my understanding, that took off with downing discrepancies and flew when it shouldn't have been flying, or whatever else, trying to make it up here and do the mission as - and I see no similarities in this crash and that crash at Quantico.
Q: Any indication of on-board fire?
McCorkle: I understand that there was a witness that said that he thought that there was an indication of fire from the aircraft. But as most of you know, we had a couple of witnesses out in Arizona, at Marana, that said the aircraft was on fire when it went to the ground, and there was no indication of fire whatsoever until the aircraft hit the ground. So the first thoughts that you get like that aren't often very correct.
Q: General, given the fact that the plane was three minutes out - seven - was three minutes and seven miles out, 1,600 feet, at what point, under normal flight conditions, do you begin the transition to the helicopter mode to land? How far out? What altitude?
McCorkle: I'm not sure where they would start that transition into the helicopter mode. I think it would all depend on what kind of an approach they were shooting, whether it was a touch- and-go or whatever, and if they were planning on doing a 60-knot or 70-knot landing, you know they may wait until they were almost over the threshold to rotate the nacelles.
Q: But wasn't their mission completed, and weren't they returning to base? Isn't it assumed that they were going to land?
McCorkle: I know that they had been out on an instrument hop, and they were coming back in. But a lot of times, when I would go back to New River, I would shoot two or three approaches, you know, at one time and then do a touch-and-go. And I don't know - and as soon as I get that information, we'll pass it on to you.
Q: And one more follow-up. So at this point you really don't know, however, if the plane was in transition?
McCorkle: I do not. I do not. And like I said, that was speculation that if they were seven miles out, that they were most likely still in the fixed-wing mode.
Q: General, the Coyle report cited some concerns about the maintenance and reliability of the V-22. If you combine those concerns with concerns about this accident, could this be a show- stopper for this program?
McCorkle: I don't think it'll be a show-stopper. The Coyle report, as most of you recall - but I was talking to someone yesterday - but very few people wrote what the Coyle report said was that it had concerns with the reliability and maintainability as tested. And those were the first four production aircraft where many times we had a tough time getting parts for them and other things like that. So it was reliability and maintainability. But nobody has ever questioned the safety of this aircraft.
Q: A follow-up. What's the practical effect of delaying the full-rate production decision? Will you have to increase the budget for the maintenance of CH-46? Will you end up spending more money maintaining your older aircraft while you wait longer to get the V-22?
McCorkle: And I wouldn't speculate on that for the future, because I think that we're still going to have a Milestone 3 decision; it will just come at a later time. But everyone knows that the 46s that we're flying around now are almost as old as me. So yes, it would take a heck of a lot of money to keep them going.
Q: Sir, this airplane, was this one of the four LRIP [low rate initial production] models, or was this one of the more mature planes?
McCorkle: And I do not know that, and I'm sorry I don't know that. I tried to get more information. But this was unlike the accident out in Arizona because now we're not in any type of op eval or whatever, and pretty soon you're getting into the Mishap Board and the sanctity of the board and all the other stuff. But I've asked those questions. If I can pass those on to you later, I will.
Q: What was the rationale for delaying the Milestone 3 decision? Should we take that to mean that the senior leadership of the Marine Corps now has fundamental questions about the safety and reliability of this plane?
McCorkle: Absolutely not. And I just got through saying that the leadership of the Marine Corps - and that includes General Jones, I think I can speak for him - don't have a question about the safety and reliability of this aircraft. But just like General Jones suspended flights when we lost the 19 Marines out in Arizona, we felt like that it was the right thing to do here, is to say let's delay the Milestone 3 decision until we find out more information as to from the CSMU particularly or whatever other information we can find out.
Q: General, how many MV-22s are there? I'm sorry.
Q: General, two questions. First, was this the only aircraft in the air at the time? Was this operating alone? And the second question would be on the delay of the decision. Might you wait until the entire mishap investigation is done, or are you delaying it at this point only until the CSMU is looked at?
McCorkle: And I'll take your second question first. And the reason I didn't give a time limit is because we don't have one. It will be until we get enough information where the commandant is comfortable to say let's go forward to Dr. Buchanan on the Milestone 3 decision.
How long that will take, I don't know. The CSMU data, how long it will take to download it, I don't know; that changed about five or six times on the last one. But at least we have one, you know, where we didn't have one of those in the past.
Q: The first question was, was this aircraft operating alone?
McCorkle: He was not in a section or division, or whatever. How many other aircraft they had operating out there, I don't know. Normally, when they have night ops you have a lot of people flying at New River out in the area. But this was the only individual that was in the instrument pattern. He had no one in there with him as a section or whatever.
Q: You said there was --
Q: Just how many --
Q: Go ahead, Charlie.
McCorkle: I'll get you.
Q: Sorry. Go ahead. I was just trying to find out how many MV-22s have been delivered. How many do you have? In other words, how many have been stood down?
Staff: Ten have been delivered, sir.
Q: Ten? Thank you. Including this one, the one that crashed?
Staff: Correct. That included the mishap aircraft on the 8th of April and this aircraft.
Q: So you have eight left?
Staff: Ten aircraft have been delivered; there are eight remaining on the line.
McCorkle: But when you look at these aircraft, they call them 19 and 20, or whatever, so they go all the way back to the technology demonstrators, or whatever, you know, that they put together at the first on 1, 2, 3, 4.
Q: You said that there was a witness that said that they thought that they saw a fire coming from the aircraft prior to the crash. Was that witness another aviator?
Q: It was someone on the ground?
McCorkle: It was someone on the ground that lived out in the area, and that's my understanding. And all this is about fourth hand; that's the reason I said I'm not going to put a lot of credence in it. And most people would say we don't know anything yet.
I did hear that, and just like in Marana when I came in, I said there were a couple of witnesses said they thought the aircraft was on fire, and they had film and everything. And there was no fire at all. So I don't know how credible the individual is.
Q: General McCorkle?
McCorkle: Let's get a --
Q: Yes, my condolences to yourself, the Marines and families. A very sad and tragic day.
You mentioned the aircraft is a very unforgiving aircraft and engineering-wise --
McCorkle: No, I said it was a very forgiving aircraft.
Q: Very forgiving. Generally in good shape; it's been tested, the engineers have looked it over. I mean, it's been in production for - or at least been under testing and evaluation for quite some time. That leads to the suggestion or conclusion or hypothesis, maybe, that the problem is not with the aircraft, but perhaps with the training and the way the Marines are employing it. Can you speak to that issue?
For example, the pilots on board, you mentioned that they had lots of experience. Were they fixed-wing pilots before they transitioned into the V-22? Were they helicopter pilots?
McCorkle: One of them was a CH-46 pilot. And I believe that Major Mike Murphy was a CH-53 pilot.
(To staff) That's correct, isn't it?
(Returning) And once again, I've known both those individuals.
In fact, Major Mike Murphy was a CACO [casualty assistance calls officer] for me when he went to knock on the door of another family at New River, and a young kid that was killed in a 53.
Q: Was this the same Osprey that made the precautionary landing two weeks ago?
McCorkle: I don't have a clue. Like I said, I don't know what number it was. I don't know anything about its maintenance background or whatever else. But if it is, or if it was - and I can see people taking notes - we'll be more than happy to let you know.
But the one that made a precautionary landing a couple of weeks ago was a seal or a valve, you know, which had nothing to do with the safety of flight. And that was fixed, and it was flown the next day.
Q: What about the training?
Q: General, just to follow up on the training question --
Q: - you've said this was an easy plane to fly, and yet you've had a very experienced pilot go down in it now. Can you offer some thoughts as to whether these raises questions about training, or is there something about this aircraft that is more complex, that you're not seeing?
McCorkle: No, I don't think that any aircraft that we've ever had - perhaps the Joint Strike Fighter in the future - but I don't think that any aircraft that we've ever had, from any service, has had an intensive training program like this one has. And this - the reason for this is because you've got the special ops guys in there, you've got the Air Force in there, you've got the Marines in there, and you've got the Navy guys in there, you know, that we've all - all four services or three services have flown the aircraft. I'm not sure that any Army pilots have flown it.
But with the simulators that they've got and the aircraft that they've got, there's no doubt in my mind that these guys are probably the best-trained individuals that they've had for any top aircraft around.
And that goes with - we've come a long, long ways with the F-18 and a couple of other airplanes that we've introduced in the recent past. But this surpasses even that, as far as the training.
Q: Please, can you comment on the frequency of the accidents? You've had two major fatal accidents in one year. I assume that's a lot for the military. And if so, you know, what's your thoughts as to what might be the problem here?
McCorkle: I'm not - that's the second aircraft accident of the year for the Marine Corps. I can tell you that I think the next lowest service - and I wouldn't speculate - but I would say is double that.
And the safety, as I've said in here before, you know, for these aircraft has got a thousand times better than it was in the past, when we would crash 80 airplanes in a week, as an example, back during the World War II era.
So it is a lot safer. If we crash one, it's too many for me. If we crash two V-22s in a year, yeah, that's way too many, and that's the reason we're going to work real hard to find out what caused this accident.
Q: Without the Osprey, General, what would you say is the future of Marine Corps aviation?
McCorkle: Well, for someone that started out in 1982 when the Marine Corps made the decision to go to the tilt-rotor, not necessarily the Osprey, I think that we went down a path, and I just don't think that there's any other aircraft out there anywhere for the money that would do the mission for the Marine Corps.
Q: And so without it, what does that mean to the future of --
McCorkle: Well, we don't plan on doing without it, and - that would be something above my pay grade, quite frankly.
Q: But there are critics who might say that the Marine Corps is so committed to this aircraft that you might have a blind spot when it comes to the flaws of the aircraft, that you're so desperate to replace these aging planes, you're so committed to this plane that you really - won't really look at this dispassionately about whether or not this is a flawed aircraft.
McCorkle: All right, and - I'm out of the hills of Tennessee, and I would say, look at this, as a no-brainer. What airplane have we ever come up with that's two and a half times as fast as the airplane that it's replacing, that carries four times as much, that goes five times as far, and is an absolutely spectacular leap in technology? I just don't - I don't see being paranoid about losing the airplane, because I can tell you that I drive a GMC Yukon; if you show me a better vehicle - and this is a heck of a lot better vehicle - I'll buy it tomorrow.
It's just really tough to see, you know, if you look at all the fine helicopters that are out there on the highway of life and the things that they do, none of them compare to tilt-rotor technology.
Q: General McCorkle?
Q: General --
McCorkle: Yes, sir, I'm going to get this gentleman back there.
Q: Does the condition of the aircraft after its crash tell us anything about how it went down? For example, does it appear that it fell out of the sky, or that the pilot was attempting to make, like, some sort of a crash landing?
McCorkle: I think the CSMU will tell us a great deal of that that we didn't have before.
But even before that, over the last 15 or 20 years, the engineers - and I don't see how they do it, having been on a couple of these mishap boards - they can tell you what angle the aircraft went in, what speed it went in and all the other things, even if there's been a major fire, like there was in this one. But I think the CSMU box is going to give us a great deal of data on that.
Q: When will we have --
Q: What do you know about that at the present, in terms of how it came in or --
McCorkle: The only thing that I do know, and this is somewhat speculation on the people's parts that were out there, but it appears to have landed flat.
Q: What does that mean?
Q: And there was a fire.
McCorkle: There was a fire, major fire. Landing flat, that it came flat.
Q: On its belly.
Q: What's the condition of the air - if there was a major fire, is it a total loss now? Is there any --
McCorkle: I have seen no pictures. I'm not even sure if anyone's taken pictures. I don't have any of that information.
Q: General McCorkle, just to make sure we have you absolutely clear on this, when you say there was a major fire, you are saying after?
McCorkle: After the impact with the ground, yes, ma'am.
Q: My second question: way back at the beginning, you said that it's very unusual these days in military situations for a pilot to be able to make a distress call. If I understood you correctly, that doesn't often happen these days. Could you just remind us why that is? And the fact that the pilot was able to make a distress call, does that tell you anything about the situation in those final moments?
McCorkle: Well, when you talk about somebody making a call on the way down, for someone who was in Vietnam and saw a lot of airplanes go down over there, I never heard anybody make a distress call.
Q: Why would you make a distress call?
McCorkle: Well, in a fixed-wing airplane, you may have a little bit more time because you're not as close to the ground to tell somebody that you're a Mayday and that you're going in at such and such coordinates or whatever else, or that something's wrong with the aircraft. And he made a Mayday call when he was out. I don't know if he made any other calls before that or whatever. We did not have a call, as an example, with the aircraft what was going in out in Arizona.
Q: Wouldn't that indicate, though, that there was a mechanical problem, if he was giving a Mayday?
McCorkle: No, I wouldn't speculate on that, and I don't think you would want to either.
Q: Well, what would be the causes for somebody to give a Mayday?
McCorkle: I'm not sure. I'm not going to speculate on it.
Q: But General, just to follow up, does that suggest that he had some time to make the Mayday call, as opposed to having to --
McCorkle: He had to have at least a second to make the Mayday call.
Q: But more time than the typical crash, in other words, is it not?
McCorkle: No. And I didn't say that, either, because I've seen a lot of people go from 3(,000) or 4,000 feet all the way to the ground and never make a voice report outside the airplane.
But most people, in my opinion, are trying to save the airplane or whatever else. Some people have an opportunity to make a call. In this case, the pilot made a mishap call - or a Mayday call. And I wouldn't speculate any further than that.
Q: Could I just ask one question just to clear up --
McCorkle: After --
Q: Was Lieutenant Colonel Sweaney a squadron commander?
McCorkle: He was not. He was going to be a squadron commander.
(To staff) I think that's a true statement, right?
Staff: The first squadron, sir.
McCorkle: Yeah, he was going to take the first tactical squadron.
Q: At Quantico?
McCorkle: At New River, MCAS [Marine Corps Air Station] New River.
Q: Do you know when that was going to happen?
McCorkle: I do not know when that was going to happen. I know that the first squadron is going to go in there sometime in the spring.
Q: You mean the first MV-22 squadron?
McCorkle: Yes, the first MV-22 squadron. He was going to be the tactical commander of it.
Q: If this accident had happened after DoD made the decision to go ahead with full-rate production, what would the Defense Department do at that point?
McCorkle: I think that that would be like any other aircraft in any other program when they make a full-rate production. I've talked to several people about several other programs, and I'm not going to talk about any of those programs, but I know that we've had crashes in programs in the past, you know, all along. A lot of Marine Corps - like I'm a CH-46 pilot; you know we lost a lot of 46s when we starting up; we lost a lot of 53s. To lose one is too many, and I would prefer not to get into that.
But if the decision was made, we would be doing the same thing that we're doing now; we would say that we're going to suspend flight operations, that we're going to look at what caused the accident, and if it's something that we can fix, then we're going to fix it.
Q: Just a clarification. You said that it appears that it landed flat on its belly. Would that be any indication that it was in helicopter mode?
McCorkle: No, ma'am.
Q: Or perhaps that he was trying to make an emergency landing?
McCorkle: No. And I'm not going to speculate on that because I have no idea right now, and I think that the board and the CSMU data will put that out.
Q: General, when you said that he issued a Mayday call, are you using Mayday generically, or did he actually say, "Mayday"?
Q: And once, twice? And did he offer any other information?
McCorkle: I don't have a clue. I don't have the tapes. And I thought that they were very nice to pass that information on to me to give to you all.
Q: There's no - sorry, just to close the loop on this. There's no indication in the wreckage that the rotors had been tilted up? Or is this not something that you'd be aware of at this stage?
McCorkle: Nothing that I'm aware of, at this stage.
Q: Sir, what was the last - what was the last communication prior to the mayday that indicated the situation --
McCorkle: I don't know. I don't have the tapes. Just like I said.
Q: General, if I could just ask you a question about vortex ring. When you mentioned that you don't think vortex ring was involved here, and last time, several months back after the first Osprey accident in April, you mentioned that you were very skeptical about the ability to develop some sort of early warning system to deal with vortex ring. Now we've read, with this latest report coming out, that in fact the Navy and Marine Corps are at work trying to develop an early warning system for vortex ring. What changed there to make that more of a practical reality?
McCorkle: I've signed a letter to that effect to Dr. Buchanan to ask that they look at that, to put something - because some of the engineers have said that you could take, sort of, like off of the CSMU box and could reach a point where you're at 800 feet per minute or 1,400 feet per minute and 40 knots or 35 knots, and at that point in time that your radar altimeter, that they could work it in there, too, at the same time, and that it would be 500 feet. And that with this computer, you would have the ability to stuff all this stuff in, all at the same time, and send a cockpit warning.
Q: So that looks like it will happen?
McCorkle: If they can do that. Easier said than done sometimes, but I applaud them if they can do it. And I've had a couple of engineers tell me that they think it'll be pretty easy to do.
Q: And why do you think vortex ring is not involved in this mishap, or accident?
McCorkle: Because they were flying in on a GCA. Vortex ring state you normally get when you're in a high rate of descent; you know, coming in to land.
Q: GCA means?
McCorkle: Ground controlled approach. I was going to say, I would prefer you didn't ask those hard questions on acronyms.
Q: General, you just noted that you didn't think vortex ring state was involved here, and I know that you're waiting for the CSMU. Is there anything else that you can say safely did not cause this? Is there anything else you want to rule out, or can rule out, at this point?
McCorkle: No, and in fact, I've probably stayed here and let you all speculate. You know, most people stay here about 10 minutes and then they'll - they'll want to answer all the questions that you have, but - you know as much as I do right now.
Q: Thank you.