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[P]
Government program suffers shocking deaths

By subversion in Op-Ed
Thu Feb 06, 2003 at 02:40:21 PM EST
Tags: Technology (all tags)
Technology

Over the last 20 years, a government program that we've spent over $40 billion dollars on has killed nearly two dozen Americans.  Cost overruns are common; depending on who you talk to, it costs anywhere from 2x to 5x projected costs, and has yet to meet its design lifespan.  Whistle-blowers have accused the designers and engineers of cutting corners and making the vehicle unsafe to fly.


We're not talking about the space shuttle, though I tried my best to make it sound that way.

We're talking about the V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft.  Designed by Boeing (one of the principal contractors for shuttle operations) and Bell (who supply 95% of all Marine Corps. helicopter contracts), the V-22 is the first production tilt-rotor aircraft; it converts from a helicopter-type flight mode to a aircraft-type flight mode in mid-air.  The program began in 1982.  The first test flight suffered a non-fatal crash.  Within one year of initial flight test, a the Osprey's first fatal accident had occurred.

More importantly, though, let's talk about a comparison of the two.  Both are programs that have failed in some ways; both have suffered fatal accidents in the recent past.  Both were developed to meet military requirements (yes, the shuttle was heavily influenced by USAF/DoD requirements; reference here).  Both have run over-budget consistently.  Both have manufacturers (or operators) who say "We just need a little more time, a little more money, a little more to make it perfectly safe."

And both of them are lying to you.  One of them should be.

Fundamentally, the Space Shuttle is an experimental vehicle.  We've flown them a grand total of 113 times.  The X-15 program, which was certainly considered an experimental program throughout its lifetime, was flown a total of 199 times.  As an experimental vehicle, the fact is that there is some risk, and it isn't perfectly safe to fly it.  Everyone stepping into the shuttle knows that, and accepts it.  The only people who like to be told otherwise are politicians and the public; the one because it doesn't like the idea of $2 billion worth of taxes going up in flames and needing explanation, and the other because they don't like the idea of dead astronauts.  

These reasons are why people are asking "Who is to blame?"  The truth is, there probably isn't anyone to blame.  It will probably wind up being some unforeseen problem, some interaction of a minor problem with an unknown that caused this tragedy.  In test programs, people die.  Planes crash and burn.  This is a fact of life for test pilots.  The program lies because we want to believe it is safe, that we can launch 2200 tons into the sky and bring back 100 tons with 7 people on board, without ever screwing it up.

The V-22 is not an experimental vehicle.  It's more or less a direct successor to NASA's successful XV-15 test program.  So why does it crash?  Most likely for all the reasons that people accuse NASA of losing space shuttles; bureaucratic mismanagement, cost-cutting, and flat-out incompetence.  They lie to you to cover their asses.

So why don't we hear a cry to cancel the V-22, or to develop a next-generation successor?  Why don't we have front page news when it crashes?  Why does it get a free pass from the public to continue operations, when the Shuttle gets a 2 year halt while they track down a single problem?  Why don't we hear about the V-22 conspiracies, the whistle-blowers who get fired and disappear?

Why are we surprised that the government has problems with safely putting people into space?  It seems to have proven it can't even put people into the air without killing them, 100 years after the beginnings of manned flight.  NASA has a better track record than the V-22 program.

People talk about "NASA doesn't care about safety".  Seems like they're doing OK to me.

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Related Links
o V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft.
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Display: Sort:
Government program suffers shocking deaths | 112 comments (62 topical, 50 editorial, 0 hidden)
Hmm... (5.00 / 3) (#11)
by Noodle on Tue Feb 04, 2003 at 10:41:59 PM EST

When the Osprey crashes, it does make the front pages, here in NC.

I thought it was pretty big news when it happend in 2000.  But I guess it was just pretty big, *local* news.

*shrug*

{The Nefarious Noodle}

National (none / 0) (#13)
by godix on Wed Feb 05, 2003 at 12:53:08 AM EST

It made national news, the media just didn't get hysterical over it like they did with sharks/Gary Condit/9-11/Columbia/etc. so you probably didn't notice.


It's from Indymedia. It sure as hell is fiction.
- Rusty[ Parent ]
Got the news here ... (none / 0) (#54)
by ChuckVA on Wed Feb 05, 2003 at 10:22:03 AM EST

... in the Norfolk, VA area, too -- but then again, this is also a huge military town. The Navy alone employs 80,000 people here.

Interestingly enough, the marines aboard for 2000 were from the barracks adjacent to an old friend of mine's out at Camp Pendleton.

A friend of mine who's working on the V-22 project (in a low-end position) swears they have the problems fixed ... but at this point I don't know how far I'd trust that. Unless you're high in the development tree they'll tell you whatever rumors will get more work out of you. For that matter, maybe the higher-ups believe it too.

Chuck

[ Parent ]

As I recall (4.57 / 7) (#14)
by RyoCokey on Wed Feb 05, 2003 at 01:21:04 AM EST

The issue with the V-22 was "vortex ring state" which was an unexpected downward plunge when the craft was descending in helicopter mode (Thus slamming the craft into the ground.)

It wasn't so much cost cutting as an unexpected issue with a revolutionary new design. The main issue is why they didn't find this little "feature" out before it went into production and use.

The V-22 is still alive in spite of it's problems mainly due to the great need for it. It replaces helicopters (Which are slow and more vulnerable) and light cargo planes (Which need runways.) It'd be a great vehicle, and an excellent addition to the militaries' arsenal. Well, if it worked like intended.



"It's from Indymedia. It sure as hell is fiction." - rusty
Not quite. (5.00 / 1) (#17)
by subversion on Wed Feb 05, 2003 at 02:18:22 AM EST

Vortex ring state is neither a new problem or unexpected.  It's a well known issue with helicopters.  Since the V-22 is a helicopter (at times), it's hard to call it an unexpected issue; more correct would be to say that it was a known issue that they didn't expect to be anywhere near as bad as it is.

The problem with the V-22 is that they refuse to fix its problems before they put more people on the line.  What other excuse do you have for flying a vehicle known to have flight control problems with 19 people inside of it?

It would be a great vehicle.  If it worked.  Which it doesn't.

If you disagree, reply, don't moderate.
[ Parent ]

WRONG! (4.00 / 1) (#20)
by Pinkerton Floyd on Wed Feb 05, 2003 at 02:24:13 AM EST

The problem with the V-22 is that they refuse to fix its problems before they put more people on the line.  What other excuse do you have for flying a vehicle known to have flight control problems with 19 people inside of it?

Care to back that statement up?  The V-22 is being worked on RIGHT NOW.  Many of the problems the aircraft has had are being addressed, and this specific problem IS FIXED.

Remember when you were young? You shone like the sun.
[ Parent ]

I back it up thus. (4.20 / 5) (#22)
by subversion on Wed Feb 05, 2003 at 02:30:08 AM EST

I back that statement up by noting the accident record of the V-22, and the fact that they flew a full load of people on flights that should not have had more than test pilots and dummy weights.

Like I posted elsewhere, I have heard good things about the V-22 in this latest round of testing; they seem to have fixed most of the problems that were really dangerous.  But it took them 4 crashes to take it down and fix it right, even when they knew what the problem was.  They're getting better, but my statement was historically valid.

If you disagree, reply, don't moderate.
[ Parent ]

In short, (2.50 / 2) (#67)
by Pinkerton Floyd on Wed Feb 05, 2003 at 03:22:09 PM EST

You can't back it up with anything specific, and all the data you point to is pre-fix.

Game, set, match.

Remember when you were young? You shone like the sun.
[ Parent ]

Management and engineers (3.00 / 2) (#69)
by subversion on Wed Feb 05, 2003 at 04:11:06 PM EST

I backed it up with 19 deaths.  I didn't say they continued to put people at risk (but I'd be willing to bet that they currently fly full-up, despite having no need to until flight tests prove that it is reasonably safe).

The fact that the data is pre-fix doesn't make it any less damning of the program management's callous disregard for life.  I doubt the engineers were all that happy about flight-test equipment having more than the necessary minimum of people on it.  I wish I could say the same about management.

If you disagree, reply, don't moderate.
[ Parent ]

And again, you're wrong (2.00 / 5) (#81)
by Pinkerton Floyd on Wed Feb 05, 2003 at 05:44:17 PM EST

I backed it up with 19 deaths.  I didn't say they continued to put people at risk (but I'd be willing to bet that they currently fly full-up, despite having no need to until flight tests prove that it is reasonably safe).

And again, you're making a false statement.  You're saying the program is unsafe NOW, you're saying there are too many people onboard NOW, and you're using old data to back it up with.  Do you have any DIRECT evidence that unessential people are riding around in test equipment?  I'm RELATED to one of the people working on this project, and I have direct personal assurance that THIS IS NOT SO.  Please present some EVIDENCE and not emotional handwaving.

Remember when you were young? You shone like the sun.
[ Parent ]

Prove it. (3.33 / 3) (#87)
by subversion on Wed Feb 05, 2003 at 10:24:00 PM EST

Do you have any DIRECT evidence that unessential people are riding around in test equipment?

No, I don't.  I'm also not willing to take your word for it (for obvious reasons, I hope you understand why).  I don't work for Boeing.  I don't know anyone working on the project.  And being a military vehicle, flight-test details are not exactly public-domain.

That said, their historical record is what I have to go on.  Your word isn't good enough.

If you disagree, reply, don't moderate.
[ Parent ]

Astonishing! (2.57 / 7) (#107)
by Pinkerton Floyd on Fri Feb 07, 2003 at 01:27:36 AM EST

I ask you to BACK UP your statement, you admit you can't, and yet I'm rated down and you're highly rated.

Please let me know if and when you liberal morons come back from lala land and rejoin the rest of us here in the real world.

Fucking morons!

Remember when you were young? You shone like the sun.
[ Parent ]

It's the contracting culture. (none / 0) (#93)
by bjlhct on Thu Feb 06, 2003 at 01:30:00 AM EST

The problem is that the system, the methodology here does not fix these problems before an actual catastrophic failure. This would be true for all the rest of the inevitable problems of a new vehicle.

And just because one problem has been fixed doesn't mean that the rest have.
And I'm not convinced it's been completely fixed.
Once it's been failing the burden of proof is on the person who says it's fixed.


*
[kur0(or)5hin http://www.kuro5hin.org/intelligence] - drowning your sorrows in intellectualism
[ Parent ]

Might not part of the problem be (5.00 / 1) (#26)
by michaelp on Wed Feb 05, 2003 at 02:43:26 AM EST

that helos are terribly vulnerable to inexpensive RPGs?

That the Osprey may indeed be more dangerous than a Blackhawk in peacetime, but far safer in a war?

So whether to push for rapid deployment of a tricky to fly warbird that is also harder to hit may not be such a simple question for folks who may have to order the Marines to fly into battle.


"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."

[ Parent ]
Not quite (a helicopter) (none / 0) (#103)
by shaper on Thu Feb 06, 2003 at 08:39:05 PM EST

Vortex ring state is neither a new problem or unexpected. It's a well known issue with helicopters. Since the V-22 is a helicopter (at times), it's hard to call it an unexpected issue

You are correct that vortex ring state is not new. You are incorrect in stating that the V-22 is a helicopter. V-22 rotors are significantly different from "normal" helicopter rotors. They have a much smaller diameter, have a much higher rotational speed and have entirely different disc loading characteristics. The air velocity on the back side of the V-22 rotor is much higher than, say, a CH-46 or other typical medium-lift helicopter. The V-22 aerodynamics in helicopter mode are NOT equivalent to any other existing helicopter. As you approach and enter ground effect, the V-22 thrust velocity makes a big difference.

I apologize for not having more specifics about the differences between the V-22 and other helicopters. I'm not an aero engineer. But I have had the differences explained to me by an aero engineer who is on the V-22 program. The V-22 is very different from other aircraft. It is NOT a helicopter. It is NOT an airplane. It is a tiltrotor and its exact performance characteristics are still being discovered. The marines are still learning how to fly it.



[ Parent ]
What's the need? (4.20 / 5) (#80)
by phliar on Wed Feb 05, 2003 at 05:34:34 PM EST

Yes, the V-22 is "revolutionary" and has a lot of techno-geek coolness. (I'm a techno-geek and a pilot, so I think it's really cool!) However, is a tilt-rotor the only solution to the problem? Well, what is the problem? Helicopters are slow and vulnerable. Hmmm... the AH-64 Apache and the AH-66 Comanche don't suffer too much...

Why are helicopters low/slow? They are limited by retreating blade stall (and compressibility, speed of sound issues). Twin counter-rotating rotors can solve most of these problems, and that's a known technology: meshing twin rotors a là the old Kaman HH-43 (the "egg-beater") and coaxial twin rotors like the Russian Kamov Ka-25. Personally, I feel a coaxial twin rigid-rotor twin-engine helicopter might be the most solid solution to these problems. (Compressibility is a problem for all subsonic aircraft starting at around Mach 0.75 or 550mph.)

A brief introduction to retreating blade stall: a wing [a rotor blade is just a rotary wing] produces lift based on two factors: its speed through the air and the angle with which it meets the air (angle of attack or alpha [α]). More speed, more lift; more alpha, more lift. On a helicopter, the blade that's moving forward has high speed and the retreating blade has low speed. Since we don't want the helicopter to constantly be rolling, the lift on both sides of the rotor must be the same; therefore the advancing blade must have low alpha and the retreating blade must have high alpha, and the rotor head arranges all this. Unfortunately the lift a wing can produce is limited: on the high-speed end by compressibility, and on the high-alpha end by stall -- the angle of attack is so high that the airstream doesn't stick to the top surface of the wing but separates, leading to loss of lift and increased drag. For a fixed-wing aircraft the stall occurs at its lowest speed; for a helicopter the stall occurs at its highest speed.

Why do twin rotors solve the retreating blade stall problem? Simple: you don't need to increase alpha on the retreating blade. Since there are two rotors turning in opposite directions, a rotor's extra lift on one side is matched on the other side by the other rotor. A fringe benefit is that you don't need a tail rotor since there is no unbalanced torque.

Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
[ Parent ]

spam (1.75 / 4) (#15)
by turmeric on Wed Feb 05, 2003 at 01:30:11 AM EST

BLAME THE GUILTY

The problem with the Osprey is due to (4.20 / 5) (#16)
by Demiurge on Wed Feb 05, 2003 at 02:13:12 AM EST

a wider problem in US military culture.  The Pentagon is full of careerists who might sacrifice their lives for their country, but not their jobs.  The Pentagon brass is far more concerned with getting money for untested, unproven weapon systems than it is with effectiveness.

Which is why (5.00 / 1) (#19)
by Pinkerton Floyd on Wed Feb 05, 2003 at 02:22:27 AM EST

none of them make any real decisions.  The Engineers on the project (for example) are all civilian contractors, nearly none of whom actually work for the government directly.

Remember when you were young? You shone like the sun.
[ Parent ]

This problem is extremely prevelent (5.00 / 1) (#47)
by Ricochet Rita on Wed Feb 05, 2003 at 09:00:55 AM EST

throughout the defense contract business. Frequently, the government will hedge so much against making an actual decision that they'll make the contractors make the decisions for them, thus saving themselves both the bother AND the blame, when things go wrong.

Another problem is that many government employees are extremely short-sighted and can't see past their own career rotations. This means that they'll often ramrod personal project through the system, which'll bring short-term gratification, instead of taking a longer view and pushing for changes that'll have a more profound effect on the organization, as a whole. (Hmmm...sounds a LOT like the Congress ...but I digress.)

On several projects that I've personally been a part of, the government reps have even adbicated their responsibility of quality assurance testing, making the contractors write, perform, & then grade the QA tests (and finally, tell them what to think about the results!).

It's really a CYA culture, out here.

R

FABRICATUS DIEM, PVNC!
[ Parent ]

Exactly! (none / 0) (#46)
by Ricochet Rita on Wed Feb 05, 2003 at 08:45:19 AM EST

Couldn't have said it better,

even though I tried...

R

FABRICATUS DIEM, PVNC!
[ Parent ]

pork (none / 0) (#51)
by Sikpup on Wed Feb 05, 2003 at 09:43:20 AM EST

The reason the osprey isn't dead is like most defense contracts, the employment is placed in the districts of influention politicians, who don't want job losses in their districts, regardless of how useless a given project is.

I seem to recall reading that the marines don't even want this thing, but that certain senators are hellbent on having it built anyway.

Personally I think said senators, since they insist this thing is safe, should be required to ride one of them everytime they need to fly somewhere and take their families with them.  See wether the risk to themselves and immediate families will change their tune.


[ Parent ]

Sigh. (3.75 / 4) (#18)
by Pinkerton Floyd on Wed Feb 05, 2003 at 02:20:31 AM EST

My brother-in-law works on the V-22.  It's very safe, and is jumping through all kinds of hoops right now to demonstrate how safe it is.

Remember when you were young? You shone like the sun.

I really wasn't trying to crucify the V-22 (5.00 / 1) (#21)
by subversion on Wed Feb 05, 2003 at 02:28:08 AM EST

It was really intended to demonstrate a point; NASA is not engaged in a safe business.  We're putting people into space, not driving down the street.  If we can't even make a tilt-rotor work right (and the V-22, whatever may be going on now, certainly has a history of problems) then what right do we have to expect a perfect record from NASA?  

From what I hear from friends working for Boeing, the V-22 is going a lot better after this last set of downtime.  And I'm glad; it is a cool program, in a lot of ways, and I want it to succeed.  It was just the easiest modern example of a vehicle that had lots of problems.

I don't mean to crucify the V-22.  I just wanted to illustrate the inaccuracy of some k5 posters' saying "Shut NASA down, they don't know what they're doing" or "NASA doesn't care", because the truth is that they know what they're doing better than anyone else in the world does, and they do care.

If you disagree, reply, don't moderate.
[ Parent ]

The most important word there: History (none / 0) (#68)
by Pinkerton Floyd on Wed Feb 05, 2003 at 03:24:43 PM EST

The current set of downtime has done wonders for the V-22.  They just need to hand the STS over to the same set of guys.  :-)

Remember when you were young? You shone like the sun.
[ Parent ]

They're doomed (5.00 / 2) (#72)
by sllort on Wed Feb 05, 2003 at 04:36:00 PM EST

If he runs an experimental troop transport helicopter like you run a web hosting company, the Marines are fucked.
--
Warning: On Lawn is a documented liar.
[ Parent ]
Says Him. (none / 0) (#92)
by bjlhct on Thu Feb 06, 2003 at 01:26:14 AM EST

If it's safe, why does it keep crashing?

And why are there all these cost overruns even if it is safe?

How does jumping through hoops show it's safe?

How does he know it's so very safe?

*
[kur0(or)5hin http://www.kuro5hin.org/intelligence] - drowning your sorrows in intellectualism
[ Parent ]

Two dozen? That's it? (3.37 / 8) (#31)
by opendna on Wed Feb 05, 2003 at 03:14:01 AM EST

I'm sure more than two dozen people have died in the last 20 years because they tried to hold in their farts for so long their rectums exploded.

Yeah.

Think about THAT next time you're high.



Vehicle safety (4.84 / 13) (#33)
by mstefan on Wed Feb 05, 2003 at 03:41:16 AM EST

To be honest, when I read this the first thing I thought about was the fact that automobile accidents result in the deaths of over 40,000 people a year in the United States. I'd consider that to be far more dangerous than either the Osprey, the shuttle or your regular commuter flight on a commercial airline.

When we put our bodies inside heavy machines that move incredibly fast, there is a risk that we'll injure ourselves or others, and possibly die as a result of those injuries. That's a fact of life. People who think that any form of transportation short of walking is perfectly safe are kidding themselves.

When the risks clearly outweigh the benefits, that's when we should take a hard look at what we're doing. I don't see that being the case with either the Osprey or the shuttle, but that's just my opinion of course.



Just a small note (5.00 / 4) (#40)
by inerte on Wed Feb 05, 2003 at 06:36:20 AM EST

People who think that any form of transportation short of walking is perfectly safe are kidding themselves.

Did you know that elevators are the most secure form of transportation?

I know it's not the tone of your comment but I thought it would be cool to share this interesting piece of information :)

--
CID 4596201: Of course power users can always use another distro, or just
[ Parent ]

consider the bicycle.. energy efficient too (nt) (none / 0) (#53)
by mordant1123 on Wed Feb 05, 2003 at 09:53:56 AM EST



-----
"There is no intellient opposition to white nationalism." - Johnny Walker
[ Parent ]
bicycles (5.00 / 2) (#60)
by AnomymousCoward on Wed Feb 05, 2003 at 12:11:04 PM EST

A lot of people crash, are struck by cars, or are otherwise hurt or killed on bicycles. They offer very little protection from the rest of the world, and are capable of travelling quite fast.

Ever see a bike going 25mph downhill try to stop when some dumbass in a car pulls out in front of them?


Vobbo.com: video blogs made easy: point click smile
[ Parent ]

bicycles (none / 0) (#95)
by mordant1123 on Thu Feb 06, 2003 at 10:10:10 AM EST

hmm.. struck by cars.. that's obviously the bicycle's fault? :) I have some difficulty faulting the bicycle for their 'very little protection', when the default for humans is 'very little protection'. We're not talking about a mobile battle-suit, we're talking about a way to get around-- I'd be really interested if you were able to mention bicycle-bicycle accidents where there was a resulting fatality..
To answer your question, yes, I've 'seen a bike going 25mph downhill..', (into a turn, etc., yada yada), and the bike is laid down, and the cyclist gets road-rash... and bikes home.
You may get to '25mph downhill' (certainly reasonable.. variations on the bicycle have achieved speeds beating the cheetah 70+mph), but resulting collisions involve a few hundred pounds, rather than a few thousand pounds, making accidents far more survivable.
It ain't fun, but it's a good bit faster than the elevator, and isn't that much more dangerous than running.
What happens when someone is sprinting full-tilt downhill and a car pulls out in front of them? They fall down, hit the car, are hit by the car, or avoid it.. same options as the bike, and some people are doubtless fatally injured every year as a result..
Solutions include-- choosing not to move faster than would allow you to stop in a reasonable distance, and, (less reasonably) eliminating the preponderance of 'moving walls' (i.e. cars).. and let's recall that nobody's doing biannual licensing of the bicyclist (ala elevators) or even administering an one(or occasionally, more)-time test for a permit (cars).

-----
"There is no intellient opposition to white nationalism." - Johnny Walker
[ Parent ]
Interesting factoid! (none / 0) (#62)
by mstefan on Wed Feb 05, 2003 at 12:48:26 PM EST

Actually, I didn't know that, although it makes sense. Thanks for the factoid, I'll have to remember that one.

[ Parent ]
Walking is not perfectly safe (none / 0) (#91)
by glor on Wed Feb 05, 2003 at 11:19:12 PM EST

Walking isn't perfectly safe either. About a year ago my wife was walking down a level sidewalk and an 10-year-old knee injury resurfaced for no good reason. Her kneecap dislocated, requiring an emergency room visit to set it, surgery a month later to address the underlying problem, and months and months of PT. Level sidewalk. From now on I walk only on my hands.

--
Disclaimer: I am not the most intelligent kuron.
[ Parent ]

Hurrah for cars on tracks (none / 0) (#65)
by auraslip on Wed Feb 05, 2003 at 02:53:03 PM EST

controlled by computers too. Could go the speed of sound and not get in a wreck
124
[ Parent ]
Software bugs (5.00 / 1) (#74)
by mstefan on Wed Feb 05, 2003 at 04:43:43 PM EST

Bugs in the traffic routing software would prove to be interesting, to say the least. ;)

[ Parent ]
the same thing for any critical system (none / 0) (#105)
by auraslip on Thu Feb 06, 2003 at 11:26:56 PM EST

You could say the same thing for any critical computer system. Nuclear, airline, submarine, and even the shuttle.
The trick is
a) not having microsoft to program it
b)convince the public
124
[ Parent ]
Don't you people watch movies? (5.00 / 1) (#106)
by ZanThrax on Thu Feb 06, 2003 at 11:52:03 PM EST

The most important reason to not have automated roadway systems is that the evil hacker terrorrists will use them to kill people in convoluted evil plans whilst laughing manically.

We're a generation of adrenaline junkie twitch freaks with the attention span of gnats; to be considered fast paced, entertainment needs to approach sensory
[ Parent ]

What the heck are you talking about? (none / 0) (#97)
by dachshund on Thu Feb 06, 2003 at 04:08:25 PM EST

To be honest, when I read this the first thing I thought about was the fact that automobile accidents result in the deaths of over 40,000 people a year in the United States. I'd consider that to be far more dangerous than either the Osprey, the shuttle or your regular commuter flight on a commercial airline ... When the risks clearly outweigh the benefits, that's when we should take a hard look at what we're doing. I don't see that being the case with either the Osprey or the shuttle, but that's just my opinion of course.

I think you're taking things too far here. Yes, lots of people die in car crashes, and that's a shame, but it doesn't mean we should simply write off any lesser dangers as unimportant. (I mean, if you've got a plan to do something about the dangers of driving, and that plan requires that we not think about anything else, that'd at least explain your lack of concern for the Osprey...)

The simple question here is: does this helicopter meet the basic standards of safety and functionality that we should be seeing for $x billion? If not, something is wrong. According to your figures, soldiers already face a massive risk simply getting to work. We shouldn't go out of our way to put their lives in additional danger.

[ Parent ]

My point (none / 0) (#99)
by mstefan on Thu Feb 06, 2003 at 04:21:51 PM EST

Transportation using machines has an inherent risk, and from a purely statistical perspective, the risk is much greater when using an automobile. It's like reading about a plane crash and saying "I'm never going to fly, it's too dangerous" and then climbing into your car and driving 30 miles on the freeway, where you actually have a significantly greater chance of dying in an accident.

I'm not saying that problems with the Osprey are unimportant, I'm saying they should be put into perspective.



[ Parent ]
Reaching, overly defensive (4.00 / 3) (#34)
by KWillets on Wed Feb 05, 2003 at 04:03:59 AM EST

This article seems to be responding to a viewpoint that I don't share, by introducing a comparison that I don't buy.  

The thing to remember about the V-22... (5.00 / 2) (#45)
by Ricochet Rita on Wed Feb 05, 2003 at 08:39:53 AM EST

Following in the grand tradition of the hapless Bradley Fighting Vehicle, the Osprey epitomizes all that is wrong with government defense contracts, today. And while the space shuttle program has a lot of problems, I fail to see the direct comparison.

Can't find the link at the moment, but last year it was revealed that some top pentagon brass and at least one high-ranking sergeant, directly involved with the Osprey project, were conspiring to cover up critical safety shortcomings of its test flights. The sergeant was reportedly being presssured by his superiors to 'sign off' on safety defects, thus allowing the plane to fly when it should have been grounded.

There was an investigation, but as far as I recall, little came of the inquiry and the project's still just as alive--and as deadly--today. Plus as an added bonus, the brass seemes to have saved their miserable careers, all at the expense of a few soldiers' lives. Pah!

R

FABRICATUS DIEM, PVNC!

Missing links: (5.00 / 1) (#49)
by Ricochet Rita on Wed Feb 05, 2003 at 09:12:05 AM EST

"Osprey Scandal Widens" from MilitiaryCorruption.com

an official news release from the DoD

the CBS News write-up of 60 Minutes' investigation, with more links

R

FABRICATUS DIEM, PVNC!
[ Parent ]

Perfectly safe to fly? (4.66 / 3) (#56)
by jabber on Wed Feb 05, 2003 at 11:19:24 AM EST

Show me anything that is perfectly safe to fly, and I'll show you a marvel of biological evolution.

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"

*knocks on wood* (5.00 / 2) (#85)
by KnightStalker on Wed Feb 05, 2003 at 09:58:59 PM EST

I've never had a V-22 or a space shuttle fly into my living room window.

Wait, what--AAUG NO CARRIER

[ Parent ]

Corruption (2.33 / 3) (#70)
by phliar on Wed Feb 05, 2003 at 04:23:08 PM EST

We often hear about corruption in third world countries, about how you can't get anything done unless you give various middlemen a couple of dollars here and there. We like to dress it up a little better. We deal not in the couple of dollars, but in the couple of billion dollars range.

Cycnicism aside: I'd argue that the Space Shuttle has been moderately successful as a research/experimental program, even though it has never achieved anything close to the primary goal of being a cheap and re-usable launch vehicle. The first major use of large solid-fuel rockets, the manipulator arm (Canadian!), the main engines, and probably a lot of other stuff. It's just that the morons higher up in administration try to use it as a marketing tool to convince the people that We're Number 1.

The Osprey... well, again, shifting requirements and technology for its own sake. What can the V-22 do that helicopters can't? Cruise faster and higher than rotary-wing aircraft can. Does it do that much more than the CH-46/47 Chinook, the SH-60 Seahawk and CH-53 Sea Stallion/Super Stallion can? No. Why didn't we built a new medium-lift helicopter with curent technology, to replace those aircraft? Instead we have the engineering nightmare of being able to transfer power from one side of the aircraft to the other (as you will need to do if one engine fails) through a massive wing/fuselage structure that needs to allow the whole shebang to pivot. Exactly the sort of thing that the various experimental programs work on -- but hardly necessary for today's military.

Faster, faster, until the thrill of...

Can a Chinook self-deploy? (none / 0) (#110)
by Eric Green on Fri Feb 07, 2003 at 12:59:07 PM EST

Can a Chinook fly 1500 miles across the Atlantic Ocean without taking up valuable cargo plane space?

Range-wise, can it fly 500 miles on a load of fuel and deliver a company of Marines and their gear to the battlefield?

There are no helicopters that do what the Osprey can do. Of course, the Osprey is a lousy airplane, and is a lousy helicopter. But it is the best (*only*) airplane-helicopter around. We had a lot of operational problems in Afghanistan caused by the short range of helicopters and by their inability to operate at high altitudes. That is the problem that the Osprey is intended to solve.
--
You are feeling sleepy... you are feeling verrry sleepy...
[ Parent ]

I agree (mostly) (none / 0) (#111)
by phliar on Fri Feb 14, 2003 at 03:59:46 PM EST

I agree that the Bronco can do things that a Chinook or Super Stallion cannot. (That's what makes it cool; the others are just boring old helicopters.) The question is: how many of these things are actually needed by the U.S. Military? My claim is that there's not much; certainly not enough to offset the high cost of something so close to the bleeding edge.
We had a lot of operational problems in Afghanistan caused by the short range of helicopters and by their inability to operate at high altitudes. That is the problem that the Osprey is intended to solve.
This sounds interesting. Off-hand I don't remember what the OV-10's max hover ceiling is, but I doubt it's much (if at all) higher than a helicopter's. (Helicopters and other rotary-wing aircraft can cruise much higher than they can hover.) A fixed-wing twin-turboprop airplane of the Bronco's size would probably do 25,000' and 200 kt. I think the CH-53E cruises around 15,000' and carries around 40 troops at 150 kt. (170 mph), 540 nm (600 miles) range.

There was also an X- series aircraft (the X-wing?) that was a wide-chord rigid-rotor helicopter for takeoff and landing, but stopped its rotor to make it a fixed-wing aircraft. (Stub wings were used for control.) Anyone know what happened with that?

Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
[ Parent ]

Experimental? (3.00 / 1) (#73)
by g33kd00d on Wed Feb 05, 2003 at 04:41:40 PM EST

I don't think it's experimental once it has been flown that many times
clickety clickety rm -rf / --BOFH
# flights doesn't cut it. (4.50 / 2) (#75)
by subversion on Wed Feb 05, 2003 at 04:50:22 PM EST

X-15.

199 flights.  All experimental.  1 fatal accident, 1 crash (the fatal accident never actually hit the ground either.)

Shuttle.

113 flights.  All experimental.

For that matter, look at the lifting-body projects Dryden ran.  400ish flights, IIRC, and experimental all the way.

Now, if you wanted to make a point that the Shuttle is not pushing the boundaries every time like those programs were, you could try... but if you check the Shuttle's performance envelope, it has improved over time, much like an experimental airframe would.


If you disagree, reply, don't moderate.
[ Parent ]

Amtrak (4.00 / 3) (#84)
by Sheepdot on Wed Feb 05, 2003 at 09:27:21 PM EST

Over the last 20 years, a government program that we've spent over $40 billion dollars on has killed nearly two dozen Americans.  Cost overruns are common; depending on who you talk to, it costs anywhere from 2x to 5x projected costs, and has yet to meet its design lifespan.

We're not talking about the space shuttle, though I tried my best to make it sound that way.

For a second I thought it was Amtrak, only the number of deaths was far too low.

Good. (none / 0) (#86)
by subversion on Wed Feb 05, 2003 at 10:20:41 PM EST

I wrote the first paragraph to, as much as possible, not indicate any specific program.

People using Columbia to indict NASA need to wake up.  These things happen, all over.  They need to accept it, fix the problem (of course!) and continue with the good work they do.

ISS is another story, and is a pointless exercise in its current design incarnation, but that can wait for a different article.

If you disagree, reply, don't moderate.
[ Parent ]

Or (none / 0) (#112)
by Sheepdot on Tue Mar 04, 2003 at 12:15:22 AM EST

Or.. as is the case with Amtrack, sell the program to the highest bidder.

NASA needs to fund itself through money obtained sending those that can afford it into space. It's a great idea, and ultimately gives NASA a chance to make tremendous amounts of money that it can put back into making flights safer and possibly even planning trips to Mars.

I think the fact it is a government program is hindering it more than helping it.

[ Parent ]

I may be a cynic but... (4.00 / 1) (#94)
by spyderfx on Thu Feb 06, 2003 at 04:59:46 AM EST

Could the difference in the way these programs are treated be something to do with the relative perceived 'value' of the lives lost?

Astronauts cost a lot to train and have a relativly high PR value compared to say a pilot compared to say an ordinary citizen killed in a car crash, personally I find it interesting how those correlate.

Public accidents only seem to become 'Disasters' when they involve comparatively large numbers of people.

Seems more like the V22 has it right to me (4.00 / 1) (#98)
by manekineko on Thu Feb 06, 2003 at 04:09:08 PM EST

I think the main difference is that the V22 doesn't have to answer to the public as much (shielded by the fact that it's a military project) and hence can do things right.

The test pilots know what they're getting in to, and at a certain point we must acknowledge safety at any cost is simply not realistic.  The truth of the matter is, that lives do have a value associated with them, and once that value is exceeded, it's more sensible simply to let them go rather than throw more money after safety.  This seems like a case of too many cooks spoiling the soup to me.  When the space shuttle has a mishap, suddenly everyone is an expert and nitpicking at how they're running their ship.  When the Osprey has a mishap, it's a tragedy, but life goes on and we let the people go on doing their jobs (notable exceptions in Congress aside, the public is largely apathetic to it).

And to address your side barbs at the V-22, as much as you may fancy yourself an expert on the field of military aviation, the Marine Corps seems to feel that this would be an important upgrade over their current capabilities.  The simple fact of the matter is, planes fly faster and more efficeintly than helicopters, helicopters are more maneuverable than planes.  This is a design that attempts to capture the best of the two worlds.

Inadequate oversight.... (none / 0) (#108)
by hughk on Fri Feb 07, 2003 at 11:45:14 AM EST

The main problem is the lack of oversight in the programme. For twenty years, and so much money - I would expect something very good, not a smell of corruption like a third-world junta.

Forget the accidents, this just doesn't sound like a viable project. Trying to combine two different flight modes will end up producing something that is inevitably a compromise for both.

[ Parent ]

The problem with the Osprey... (1.00 / 1) (#100)
by cyrus on Thu Feb 06, 2003 at 04:38:50 PM EST

...is that it is a lame-ass half helicopter half aeroplane monstrosity that has no obvious role in the military's air force strategy, and above all looks awfully uncool, especially compared to the space shuttle...

...so don't go comparing the two.
~c

Not quite (4.00 / 1) (#101)
by Gorgonzola on Thu Feb 06, 2003 at 05:54:18 PM EST

Actually, the Marine Corps is in desperate need of a vehicle like the Osprey. Their current helicopter fleet is aging rapidly and changes in the role of the Marine Corps require a VTOL ability that has much longer operating ranges than the current fleet has. Think about quick over-the-horizon deployments of troops and light artillery. And over-the-horizon means in this context that the Navy ships involved will not be in littoral waters but out in the open ocean. Especially since more and more countries have acquired diesel-electric submarines that are extremely difficult to hunt in noisy coastal waters (and believe me, DE subs can be almost silent) and can thus deny operations closer to shore. The added bonus of the hybrid plane/helicopter design is that it can operate much longer at high altitude. Having to hop around in helicopters in mountainous areas like Afghanistan is a pain in the ass from an operational viewpoint because you have to take the thinner air up there into account which reduces the maximum weight they can carry.
--
A page a day keeps ignorance of our cultural past away, or you can do your bit for collaborative media even if you haven't anything new or insightful to say.

[ Parent ]
Osprey advantages and disadvantages (none / 0) (#109)
by Eric Green on Fri Feb 07, 2003 at 12:53:24 PM EST

The advantages of the Osprey are range and self-deployability. Do not underestimate those advantages. We had serious operational problems in Afghanistan because of the limited range and limited high-altitude capabilities of helicopters, and the first U.S. casualties in Afghanistan happened when a chopper returning to a fuel depot in Pakistan crashed.

In addition, simply getting choppers to the theater of operations is a time-consuming and costly endeavor, requiring removing their blades, stashing them in a cargo plane, flying them out to the theater of operations, probably stashing them into a truck, then driving the truck to the actual deployment zone. The helicopter must then be re-assembled and readied for combat. The Osprey, on the other hand, is self-deploying. If loaded to the gills with fuel and completely unloaded it can be flown trans-Atlantic, meaning that with a few refuelings (either on the ground or in the air) it can be flown to where it's needed in less than 1/4th the time that it takes to get a helicopter to the theater of operations, and without taking up valuable cargo plane space that's more valuable for hauling ammunition, men, and supplies.

The downsides of the Osprey, on the other hand, are well known. It's a lousy helicopter, and it's a lousy airplane. It's slow and vulnerable when used as an airplane, and it's clumsy and unsafe when used as a helicopter. The Marines have made a case, however, that they're willing to accept a few casualties in order to gain the advantages in terms of range and deployability of the Osprey. This is similar to the choice that the astronauts make when they join the Shuttle program -- they know it's not safe, but they also know it's currently the best way for men to get into space, and are willing to take the risk to fly on the thing.

-E
--
You are feeling sleepy... you are feeling verrry sleepy...
[ Parent ]

And... (3.00 / 4) (#102)
by damiam on Thu Feb 06, 2003 at 06:16:17 PM EST

Over the last 20 years, a government program that we've spent over $40 billion dollars on has killed nearly two dozen Americans.

Over the last 30 years, a goverment program that we've spent over $10 trillion dollars on has killed nearly two hundred thousand Americans.

Economic reality (5.00 / 1) (#104)
by shaper on Thu Feb 06, 2003 at 09:05:23 PM EST

So why don't we hear a cry to cancel the V-22, or to develop a next-generation successor?

Because the V-22 is an answer to a desparate need of the US Marine Corps. The newest helicopter that it is replacing was built (not designed, actually built) in the 1960's. They need something to replace helicopters that will be literally falling apart soon. Also, the US has sunk billions in R&D into the V-22 and it's design is a direct result of the Marines' requirements, so any replacement to the V-22 would probably still look much like the V-22.

If the V-22 were cancelled today, they would have to turn right around tomorrow and invest billions more into something else that would do the same thing, only it wouldn't be here for at least 10-15 years. The Marines need something right now. The expedient thing at this point is to correct whatever problems remain with the V-22 rather than start over at square one.



Government program suffers shocking deaths | 112 comments (62 topical, 50 editorial, 0 hidden)
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