The V-22 Osprey, the troubled and revolutionary aircraft known for a string of crashes early in its career and for its later redemption hauling Marines and their gear in Afghanistan, is now sporting the glossy dark green of Marine Helicopter Squadron One.
HMX-1, the unit that operates the VH-3Ds that whisk the chief executive to Camp David or Andrews Air Force Base, has now also begun to fly tiltrotor Ospreys (The helicopter is called “Marine One” when the president is on board). The leathernecks of HMX-1 are famous for unwavering precision, as numerous presidents have alighted on the White House lawn and returned a lazy hand to the poker-straight Marine saluting at the base of the helo’s stairs. The squadron is using MV-22 Ospreys for transport of administration aides and reporters.
The Osprey originated from a 1981 requirement for an experimental aircraft that would result in a unique blend of helicopter and turboprop airlifter. The JVX — which would become the V-22 in 1985, and which flew first in 1989, suffered a string of early accidents and controversy. Since 2009 the Osprey has been used in combat in Afghanistan, and it participated in humanitarian operations in Haiti in 2010. Over that period, the Osprey has racked up 160,000 safe flight hours and has gained grudging respect both from helo old hands and grunts on the ground who are spirited to war zones half a world away.
And, now, from the odd congressional staffer.