Unplanned Osprey landings in Japan stir concerns

On September 21, 2023, an unexpected landing was made by a V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft of the US Marine Corps at Amami Airport in Amami Oshima, Japan. The reason for this unscheduled landing has not been revealed, but it was confirmed that there were no injuries and commercial flight operations were not disrupted. The Osprey landed at the airport around 3:46 p.m. local time without prior notice, surprising airport staff and local authorities. Despite the surprise landing, no injuries were reported and normal operations resumed quickly at the airport.


This incident is not isolated as there have been several unplanned landings of Osprey aircraft in Japan recently, with three incidents occurring within a week. On September 14, 2023, two Ospreys made a precautionary landing at Amami Airport and New Ishigaki due to a warning light during the flight. A similar event occurred at Oita Airport two days later. The Osprey, officially known as the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey, is a distinctive military aircraft that merges the functionalities of a helicopter and an airplane. It employs tiltrotor technology which enables its rotors to tilt vertically for takeoff and landing and horizontally for forward flight. The Osprey is used by various branches of the US military as well as Japan’s Ground Self-Defense Force for missions such as troop transport, cargo delivery, search and rescue, and special operations.


Concerns about the safety of the Osprey have been raised due to recent mechanical issues. On June 8, 2023, an MV-22 Osprey crashed during training in Holtville, California, resulting in the death of all five US service members onboard. The crash was attributed to an unintentional clutch disengagement followed by a sudden dual hard clutch engagement (HCE). This mechanical failure led to urgent action to replace relevant components before they reached a predetermined flight-hour threshold. Another fatal crash involving a V-22 Osprey occurred during an exercise in Northern Australia on August 27, 2023. The investigation into this crash is still ongoing.

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Despite these incidents, the USMC stated that the recent mishaps did not appear to be related to the clutch issue. Major Rob Martins, a spokesperson for the Okinawa-based 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, stated "Currently, there are no indications that these events resulted from an MV-22 hard clutch engagement (HCE) malfunction." Following three Class-A aviation mishaps involving Marine aircraft over the past six weeks, including the V-22 crash in Australia, a F/A-18D Hornet crash near Marine Corps Air Station Miramar on August 24, 2023, and a USMC F-35B fighter jet crash in South Carolina on September 17, 2023, the USMC directed all its aviation units to conduct a two-day stand-down in flight operations on September 18, 2023.

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