Pressure brought to bear to change findings of report on Osprey crash in Afghanistan in 2010 – “It was human error that caused it.”

June 25, 2012 Hideki Matsudo of Ryukyu Shimpo reports from Washington D.C.

MV-22 Osprey vertical take-off and landing transport aircraft are to be deployed to U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station in August. The early retirement of the leader of the accident investigation board for the Osprey crash in Afghanistan in 2010 was followed by the Air Force’s decision to remove the commander of the Osprey squadron. According to a report in Wired magazine on June 21, high-ranking U.S. Air Force officials have applied pressure to amend the report of the accident investigation board from mechanical failure to “human error” as the cause of the crash. The president of the board stated that the cause of the crash in Afghanistan in 2010 was mechanical failure. The writer of the magazine cast doubt on the Air Force’s announcement that the crash in Florida on June 13 was not the result of mechanical failure.

Despite the investigation not being completed, the Department of Defense has repeatedly stressed that there is no problem with the aircraft. Knowing that the Okinawan people’s opposition to the deployment of the Osprey is growing, the United States seems to be rushing to settle the situation.

After the crash in Florida, Lieutenant Colonel Matt Glover of the 8th Special Operations Squadron, who was in charge when the Osprey went down during a training exercise, was sacked. According to the report issued by the electronic version of Inside Defense, a U.S. Defense specialty journal, Colonel James Slife, the 1st Special Operations Wing chief, said, “The commander of the 8th Special Operations Squadron was relieved because of a loss of confidence in his ability to effectively command the unit.” Some specialists suggest that the U.S. Air Force is trying to dampen down the controversy surrounding the Osprey by stating that human error caused the crash.

When the Air Force had not completed the investigation to find the evidence of causing the crash, Colonel Slife suggested that there was no reason to suspect a design flaw, and the squadron commander was relieved of his position. The writer for Wired suggests that the Air Force has a history of blaming people when its warplanes malfunction. In the article, the writer touched upon the controversy over the investigation report of the Osprey crash in Afghanistan in 2010. When a CV-22 crashed, the lead investigator Brigadier General Donald Harvel initially attributed the incident in part to engine failure. However, Harvel said the Air Force leaders leaned on him to place the blame on the pilots, instead.

Harvel retired from the military after he submitted the report. In an article of the
Air Force Times, weekly magazine of the U.S. Air Force, published in January, 2011, He commented, “There was absolutely a lot of pressure to change my report.” He also said, “My heart and brain said it was not pilot error. I stuck with what I thought was the truth.”

According to Wired, in 2001 the Marine Corps commandant fired Lieutenant Colonel Odin Lieberman, head of the Corps’ Osprey training squadron, after he was accused of falsifying maintenance records in order to mask the aircraft’s tiltrotor design flaws.

(English translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey)

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