US Air Force, September 04, 2007 - HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. by Jamie Haig, 1st SOW Public Affairs - The CV-22 Osprey, pilots and flight engineers from the 8th Special Operations Squadron executed the first landing and take-offs from the USS Bataan (LHD 5) Aug. 13-14.
"It was easier than the simulator," said Lt. Col. Ted Corallo, 8th SOS commander. "And challenging because of the precision required. The bridge of the ship is close to the prop rotor tip path plane when landing and departing and the landing gear is close to the edge of the deck of the ship."
The five pilots and three flight engineers participated in the training aboard ship but did dry runs on land first. The crews started with day training on a painted runway with markings that represented the ship. Once the practice was completed, they went to the ship for the real thing.
"Our first flight was with a US Marine Corps MV-22 instructor pilot with CV-22 ship operations experience," Colonel Corallo said. "He taught us ground school on ship operations then flew with one of my instructors on the first landing."
After completing the daytime short landings and take-offs, they returned to land with the Marine instructor to practice night landings. The actual night landings and hovering maneuvers onboard ship were done with night vision goggles.
"Although the simulator is very good at replicating the ship, nothing is like the actual aircraft. The sound, feel, smell, control response and crew interaction was great. The end result was the actual aircraft is easier to fly than the simulator," Colonel Corallo said.
Pilot Capt. Paul Alexander, 8th SOS, concurred with the commander's assessment.
"We brought some instructors aboard who have never landed on a ship outside of the simulator," said Captain Alexander. "By coming out here, we practice on something real."
The flight engineers were exposed to a similar but different scenario than they've experienced on land. Used to scanning landing zones, the primary job of the flight engineer on a ship is to scan the landing from the ramp at the back of the plane. As the pilots land, the fight engineers make sure the landing gear isn't too close to the edge of the ship's landing deck and that it is in alignment with the deck markings.
"There's always potential obstacles that can snag your gear when you're positioning for landing if you approach the ship at too low of an altitude," Colonel Corallo said. "The flight engineers keep us clear of these obstacles."
When the CV-22 is performing land operations, the speed of assault is important and usually involves landing without hovering first. On a ship, landings are more deliberate, with the crew hovering before landing.
Although the CV-22 platform is a stable one, when landing on a ship versus land, the pilots need to consider the distance from the prop rotors to the ship structure.
"When we were landing on the ship, the left prop rotor was 120 feet above the water and the right one only 20 feet off the deck," Colonel Corallo said. "We thought the downwash would induce some unusual handling characteristics, but this wasn't the case at all. The CV-22 was very stable."
In the one day the crews of the 8th SOS were training aboard ship, five pilots participated in the training and three were fully qualified with a total of 75 landings by the time they finished. The ability to complete the numerous landings was due to the speed of the CV-22.
"The ship was 60 miles off shore and it would have taken 30 minutes each way in a helicopter to reach it," said Captain Alexander. "In the CV-22, it only took 15 minutes."
The biggest challenge the 8th SOS encountered wasn't the landings and take-offs, but synchronizing the ship availability with the squadron training schedule, aircraft maintenance requirements and aircraft delivery schedule.
"We hope to train the rest of the squadron this fall if the ship is available," Colonel Corallo said.