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Osprey lands at AirVenture 2010
By Frederick A. Johnsen
 

Photo by Laurie Goossens

The Air Force has a fast new tool to get into and out of tight places. It's the CV-22 Osprey, whose twin giant tilt rotors give it remarkable vertical takeoff and landing capability. Those same giant rotors, too large to clear the ground when tilted fully forward, can give the Osprey a maximum sea level cruising speed of 250 knots.

Vertical takeoff weight is limited to 52,600 pounds. Any heavier, and the Osprey must get a running start, with the giant rotors tilted forward not more than 60 degrees to ensure ground clearance.

Capt. Buck Kozlowski is a former C-130 transport pilot who is in the midst of his intensive year-long transition training into the Osprey with the 71st Special Operations Squadron. He says savvy Osprey instructors fit each pilot to the plane, which is helpful since he is a fixed-wing pilot while many others coming into the Osprey world are prior helicopter pilots. In vertical flight mode, he is out of his previous comfort zone, but Captain Kozlowski says he comes into his own realm when making steep turns in level flight at 10,000 feet - not typical of helicopter operations.

Are the big rotors loud? What? No, not really, Captain Kozlowski says, comparing the CV-22 as perhaps quieter than a C-130. The aircraft is computer-controlled fly-by-wire. Pilot control inputs are, well, suggestions for the computers to consider when they mete out a response within the CV-22's performance envelope. "The computer won't let you over-G (overstress) the aircraft," he explains. That includes tilting the rotors. Tilting them forward from vertical to horizontal flight is called transitioning; tilting back from horizontal to vertical flight is called conversion in Osprey parlance, the captain says.

Tilt angle is adjusted for the mode of flight. "The idea is to keep the fuselage level," Captain Koslowski says. Sometimes, this calls for a tilt angle different than 90 degrees to counter a headwind, for example. But if the crew wants to get a better look at the ground in front of them, they can shift the rotors back beyond vertical to 96 degrees, and produce a nose-down attitude.

Captain Koslowski has participated in more than one air show display of the Osprey. The Oshkosh crowd, known for its aviation savvy, asks different questions. "Here we've been getting a lot of performance-based questions," he says.

FUTURE AIRVENTURE DATES: 2014: July 28-Aug. 3; 2015: July 20-26; 2016: July 25-31; 2017: July 24-30
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