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The World's Coolest Aircraft - Boeing V-22 Osprey

By Edited Jun 12, 2016 0 0

The V-22 is a fixed wing, tilt rotor aircraft capable of vertical takeoffs. It has the ability to fly as a helicopter or as an airplane. This unique aircraft was designed to overcome a need for a flying machine that can take off in small areas and travel at high speeds. Built for use by the American military, the Osprey is built under a partnership between Bell helicopters and Boeing.

A new class of aircraft

v-22 in flight

The Osprey with it's unique fixed-wing, tile-rotor design was the first production aircraft of it's kind. Most people are familiar with the British Harrier fighter jet, which is one of the only other well-known planes with vertical take off capability. The V-22 Osprey, shares more design cues and functionality with it's rotor-winged cousin than with airplanes.

 

Designed for long-range flight as well as takeoff in congested areas, the Osprey can complete a wide variety of missions that previously would have required both planes and helicopters. An interesting feature is it's ability to completely fold away for storage in small spaces. The rotors fold together parallel with the wing, and the entire wing structure rotates 90 degrees sideways so it's parallel with the fuselage of the aircraft. This feature makes it ideal for use in tight spaces such as aircraft carriers.

V-22 Osprey folding up for storage

Why not just build a faster helicopter?

This machine is highly complex and although extremely useful, it is astronomically expensive to maintain. A quick look at the Osprey may leave the average person wondering why not just build a faster helicopter? This is a good question, and one I had to answer for myself when researching for this article.

Helicopters have a top theoretical airspeed of around 225 knots and most can not fly more than 200. The reason for this is the blades (wings) are rotating. With a fixed-wing aircraft, no matter how fast it travels in level flight, both wings have an equal part to play in producing lift. With helicopters however, as the machine travels faster and faster, the trailing blade (the one moving backward relative to the direction of travel) produces less and less lift until it stalls and no longer contributes to lift. If the helicopter is traveling forward at 60 knots in no wind, the forward moving blade is impacting the air at it's rotating speed plus 60 knots, whereas the rear moving blade impacts the air at it's rotating speed minus 60 knots. The faster you go, the less lift the rear blade produces until it ultimately stalls.

The American military had need for an aircraft that could fly over long distances  and also

Osprey at 45 degrees
land in a small space, hence the development of the V-22 Osprey. With it's rotor heads facing upward, it can takeoff completely vertical and gradually enter horizontal flight as the rotor heads rotate 90 degrees forward. It is interesting to note that the Osprey can not land in "full plane mode" as the rotor blades are large enough that they would strike the ground. It can however land as a plane in partial plane mode with the rotor heads around 45 degrees. 

The untold history of the V-22 Osprey

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Design and development

The contract to produce the V-22 Osprey was jointly awarded to Bell and Boeing in 1983. Six years later on March 19 1989, it flew it's first test flight in helicopter mode. The maiden flight in "plane mode" happened only a few months later on September 14th. Many years of testing and alterations plagued the project. The inherent complexities of an aircraft that could be flown as a helicopter and as a plane were difficult to overcome. Control systems to the rotors and motors needed to be able to rotate a full 90 degrees, balance and center of gravity issues needed to be overcome as well as control systems.

The program suffered several blows in the early 90s with then Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney tried to discontinue funding for the program but was overruled by congress. Fortunately the Clinton administration was supportive of the project. Two test flights ended in crashes in 1991/1992 and much negative publicity followed.

Dramatic crash during testing

In 2000, there were two more fatal crashes killing a total of 19 marines. All of the aircraft were grounded while the cause of the accidents was under investigation. In June of 2005, 23 years after the project began the final operational evaluation was completed and the aircraft were put into service. All of the deficiencies that had caused crashes and incidents had been addressed and repaired.

Military use

plane mode
The <img%20src="http:/www.assoc-amazon.com/e/ir?t=infobarrel0ee-20&l=as2&o=1&a=1932019308"%20width="1"%20height="1"%20border="0"%20alt=""%20style="border:none%20!important;%20margin:0px%20!important;"%20/>">V-22 Osprey is arguably the most versatile aircraft that has ever been built and as such, is used to complete a wide variety of tasks for the American military both domestically and overseas. The V-22 has seen use by the Marines and the U.S. Air Force and there are future plans to order Ospreys for the U.S. Navy. They have been deployed and used in combat zones in both Iraq and Afghanistan and although it took a long time to develop, the Osprey has proven to be a useful tool in combat.

I think it's safe to say that the <img%20src="http:/www.assoc-amazon.com/e/ir?t=infobarrel0ee-20&l=as2&o=1&a=B002RSQ1KQ"%20width="1"%20height="1"%20border="0"%20alt=""%20style="border:none%20!important;%20margin:0px%20!important;"%20/>">V22 Osprey or at least the tilt-rotor style aircraft, is here to stay. It's unique ability to take off as a rotary craft and fly as a plane has earned it a place in aviation history. This machine has opened up a whole new realm of possibilities for troop and supply transport and we've only scratched the surface when it comes to potential uses. The Osprey seems like a logical choice for offshore and other remote rescue as well as a host of other operations. I think that it's safe to say, this new class of aircraft has proven it's worth and is here to stay.

A radio controlled V-22 Osprey

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Bibliography

  1. "Why can't helicopters fly fast?." decoded science. 4/04/2013 <Web >
  2. "Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey." wikipedia. 4/04/2013 <Web >
  3. "Overview." Boeing.com. 4/04/2013 <Web >

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