Osprey take flight over Boston for Marine Week

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May 4, 2010, 7:44 pm
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(NECN: Ally Donnelly, Bedford, Mass.) - They are hulking, impressive machines, able to transform from airplane to helicopter in seconds. There are now half a dozen newly updated Osprey aircraft on the east coast.

NECN's Ally Donnelly went up in the expensive, controversial craft.

To fly aboard the new MV-22 Osprey...the Marines make you sign your life away. They don't ask for the phone number of your emergency contact, they ask for their address -- which makes you wonder.

The 60-thousand pound behemoths are at Hanscom Air Force Base -- part of the PR blitz of Marine Week. We tagged along on a media tour Tuesday afternoon.

The Osprey can fly at more than 300 miles per hour. Taking off from Hanscom near Bedford, we were whizzing by Boston Landmarks 20 miles away...in just a couple of minutes. There goes the Back Bay, Museum of Science and Zakim Bridge.

But what makes the Osprey truly unique is that is its a tilt rotor aircraft, meaning it can either fly like an airplane or transform into a helicopter to land in tight spaces.

The Osprey can switch from plane to helicopter mode in 15 seconds and the Marines say speed is critical to their operations.

Lt. Col Todd Desgrosseiller: "Obviously the enemy is there trying to kill you and you're trying to break their will to fight you."

Lt. Col Todd Desgrosseiller of Auburn, Maine is in the infantry back after two combat tours in Iraq. He says more and more urban areas have become the battlefield and the Osprey helps troops adapt.

Lt. Col Todd Desgrosseiller: "It gives you confidence that you can maneuver on the enemy, it gives you confidence that if someone is injured, that you can quickly get them back."

Bell-Boeing has sold about 450 Ospreys -- mostly to the Marines, but to the Navy and Air Force as well. New Hampshire companies Smith's Tubular and New Hampshire Ball Bearing make parts for the aircraft, which Bell-Boeing hopes will have civilian applications one day -- from med-vacs to business travel.

The starting price of the Osprey is 70 million dollars and development has been controversial. It's been called the widow maker. The Pentagon halted deployments in 2000 after crashes killed 23 Marines and an Osprey crash in Afghanistan just last month killed four people.

Bell-Boeing Rep: "If there was something that was wrong with the design of the aircraft, they would have grounded the fleet."

Mayer: "I absolutely have confidence in this aircraft or I wouldn't fly it, my wife wouldn't let me fly it."

The Marines say there are always risks, but they hope the bumps on the Osprey's ride won't deter prospective recruits they're trying to woo during Marine Week.

Lt. Col Todd: We're looking for tough, smart Americans that want to serve their country. You know, Marines are all about challenge."

And a challenge they have.

Tags: Boston, Ally Donnelly, Osprey, Marine Week, Hanscom AFB
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