Osprey suffers mishap off coast of Okinawa

By Justin Doubleday / December 13, 2016 at 11:20 AM

(UPDATED: Dec. 14, 10:27 a.m. -- The commanding general of III MEF, Lt. Gen. Lawrence Nicholson, addressed the Osprey mishap in a Dec. 14 press conference.)

The commanding general of III Marine Expeditionary Force has addressed an MV-22 mishap that occurred off the coast of Okinawa, Japan, yesterday.

The mishap occurred on Dec. 13 at approximately 10 p.m. local time after the Osprey was damaged during aerial refueling operations when its rotor blades struck the refueling lines, according to Lt. Gen. Lawrence Nicholson, the commanding general of III MEF. The damaged Osprey then crashed as the pilot attempted a landing in shallow waters off the Okinawa coastline.

"After the aircraft was unhooking, it was shaking violently," Nicholson said during a Dec. 14 press conference. "The pilot made a decision to not fly over Okinawan homes and families. He made a conscious decision to try to reach Camp Schwab and land in the shallow water to protect his crew and the people of Okinawa."

The MV-22 was from Marine Aircraft Group 36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing. All five crew members on the Osprey were successfully recovered and airlifted to the U.S. Naval Hospital at Camp Foster where they are being treated for injuries. Three Marines have been released from the hospital, while two remain under observation, according to III MEF.

The crash has been classified as a Class A mishap, according to the Naval Safety Center's latest aviation summaries, which says the MV-22 was destroyed, costing $80.6 million. A Class A mishap occurs when the accident causes death or permanent injury, destroys the aircraft, or results in more than $2 million in damages. Such mishaps trigger both an internal Marine Corps investigation by a safety investigation board and an investigation that could one day be made public by the Judge Advocate General. 

Nicholson announced a temporary halt in MV-22 flight operations throughout Marine Forces Japan so crews can review checklists and safety flight procedures.

The Marine Corps is determining the most viable platform and method for recovering the aircraft, “stressing the importance of safety and protection to the environment,” according to the III MEF statement.

“A formal investigation into the incident has been launched,” the III MEF statement continues. “There will be no further information on the cause of the incident until the investigation is complete.”

The crash comes less than a week after an F/A-18 Hornet deployed from the III MEF crashed off the coast of Japan on Dec. 7. The pilot, Capt. James E. Frederick, ejected from the aircraft, but was found dead two days later by search and rescue teams. The incident remains under investigation, according to III MEF.