You might say that Osprey pilots are neither fish nor fowl.
- By John Croft
- Air & Space magazine, September 2007
(Page 4 of 5)
Newbies need all of the above.
Lieutenant John Alan Sax was the first of two Marine pilots selected for the Osprey, coming to VMM-263 directly from flight school late in 2004. Sax had wanted to fly since his days as a marketing major at Old Dominion University in Virginia, but he didn't want the fast metal. "I was pretty turned off by jets—I wanted to fly the C-130 transport," he says. "I hadn't heard of the V-22 at that point."
Why no jets? "More or less bad rumors," he says. "Even though you're a Marine, you don't get to know your Marines." Sax feels that jet pilots are isolated from the grunts. "I wanted to be a little lower."
After his mandatory post-college non-flight Marine training, Sax started flying, first the single-engine Piper Tomahawk for 25 hours, then the T-34C at Corpus Christi, Texas. At that point, Sax and one other pilot candidate for the first time had four options: transports, helicopters, jets, or…tiltrotors.
"My ops officer had called me to tell me that I'd be flying the V-22," Sax recounts. Sax thought he'd been selected for the F-22 Raptor, the military's newest single-seat fighter jet, a dream job for practically any other military pilot; oddly, he was disappointed.
Sax: "I don't want jets."
Ops officer: "No, stupid; it's the Osprey."
Path chosen, Sax began flying the C-12, the twin-engine turboprop Beechcraft King Air. During 100 hours of flight training, he learned skills like aerial refueling and low-altitude flying, "building the way forward," he says, "for what we were going to do later with the Osprey." Next it was on to Pensacola, Florida, where he spent 50 hours flying Bell TH-57 helicopters. Focus areas included autorotations (engine-out landings), hovering, and confined-area landings. Sax earned his wings on September 29, 2005, and moved to New River, where he began MV-22 transition in preparation for flying with an operational squadron.