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08-22-05, 02:07 PM
VMX-22 marks historic flight
MCAS New River
Story by Lance Cpl. Jeffrey A. Cosola

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION NEW RIVER (Aug. 12, 2005) -- Birds. Lots of birds. A horizon choked with flapping wings and beady-eyes, seen through the tears of a terrorized family.

It was in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1963 film “The Birds” that a small town stood witness to the phenomenon of a sky teaming with birds bent on settling a score with humankind. In Hitchcock’s masterpiece, birds of all kind took to the sky to demonstrate their strength in numbers. However, on Aug. 12, in a far more peaceful sense, it was only the Ospreys in the sky, flexing their operational muscle and making history.

Marine Tiltrotor Test and Evaluation Squadron-22 staged a landmark flight, launching the largest combined flight of MV-22 Ospreys, 16 aircraft in all, to exhibit the “Argonauts” maintenance capabilities and operational acumen, said Col. Glenn M. Walters, VMX-22 commanding officer.

“We did this operation to prove that our maintenance department is mature and that the material condition of the aircraft is good,” said Walters. “This was valuable training not only for our maintenance department and crew chiefs, but for our pilots as well.”

According to Walters, the remarkable flight went off “like clockwork,” and helped to reveal the day-to-day excellence VMX-22 has made standard operating procedure.

“It was absolutely motivating,” added Maj. Vince R. Martinez, a VMX-22 pilot in the number 11 Osprey. “I was 11 aircraft back and to watch all those MV-22’s taxi out and then take-off in front of me, it sent chills up my spine. It felt like I was glimpsing into the future.”

Launching four divisions of aircraft and being a part of history was a positive experience for the unit as a whole and for those pilots who were able to participate in the flight, said Maj. Brian C. Smith, a VMX-22 pilot in the number 10 Osprey.

“We could see nine planes in front of us, which was cool,” said Smith. “But it wasn’t so much the 16 aircraft, it was VMX-22 as a unit. This was a gigantic effort and my hat’s off to the whole unit.”

Both Martinez and Smith said they gave a great deal of the credit for the successful operation to the “tremendous maintenance effort,” understanding that without a contribution from the entire squadron, the flight would not have been possible.

According to Smith, this flock of Ospreys may never appear again due to plans to place 12 aircraft in each Osprey squadron once the program becomes operational.

“I can’t foresee 16 or more aircraft under one unit,” explained Smith. “It would be the same as flying almost two full squadrons together at the same time. This might not ever happen again.”

The flight also helped showcase an ever-improving Osprey program that, according to Walters, has accrued more than 5,000 flight hours to date.

“5,000 hours is a good solid base for Marine Medium Tiltrotor Training Squadron-204 to begin working and training for the first operational Osprey squadron,” said Walters. “We’re rooted here at Marine Corps Air Station New River, and those roots are firm. We’re going to continuously train our Marines to push forward toward full operational capability.”


A line of V-22 Ospreys warm-up before joining 16 others in flight over the Station Aug. 12. According to Col. Glen M. Walters, Marine Tiltrotor Test and Evaluation Squadron-22 commanding officer, the sheer number of aircraft flying at one time is a testament to the squadron's ability. Photo by: Lance Cpl. Jeffrey A. Cosola