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An Air Force accident report released Thursday blames human error for the crash of a CV-22 Osprey in June near Hurlburt Field, Fla., but the service also identified shortfalls in training and techniques that are "areas of concern."
The Osprey was flying in formation with another CV-22 when it accidentally flew into the other aircraft's wake, causing it to go into an uncontrolled 63-degree roll to the left, according to an executive summary of the accident investigation report.
Only 336 feet off the ground, the Osprey was falling at 2,880 feet per minute, the report said. Still, the pilot and co-pilot managed to stabilize the wings before the Osprey crashed, the report found. The five crew members escaped with non-life-threatening injuries, but the tilt-rotor aircraft was destroyed at a cost of $78 million.
In late June, following the crash, Lt. Col. Matthew Glover, commander of the 8th Special Operations Squadron, was relieved due to a loss of confidence in his ability to lead the squadron.
The report found that the Osprey's pilot and co-pilot thought they were far enough away from the other aircraft to avoid its wake, but they were wrong.
"The [pilot's] and [co-pilot's] misperception was most likely caused by a combination of the [Osprey's] turning flight path and minor changes in the [lead aircraft's] altitude," the report found.
However, the report noted the Air Force has no official guidance on how to recover from such a roll when a CV-22 flies into another Osprey's wake, the report found. The CV-22 simulator is also unable to replicate the turbulence caused by flying into another Osprey's wake.
While the two aircraft were too close under existing standards, the Air Force's models for how far Ospreys need to stay from each other to avoid each other's wake are "inadequate," according to the report.
"Specification of a minimum of 250 feet from cockpit-to-cockpit separation between aircraft in formation and charts depicting aircraft wake effects extend only to 375 feet can potentially give a false sense of security to aircrews flying at significantly greater distances in trail," the report found.
A spokesman for Air Force Special Operations Command would not say if any of the Osprey crew would face disciplinary measures.
"The members' command authorities will determine whether or not any disciplinary action is appropriate," Mike Martin said in an email. "Those disciplinary actions are often protected by the Privacy Act."
The Defense Department is sending Marine versions of the Osprey to Okinawa, but they will not fly until the Japanese government agrees that the aircraft is safe.
The Japanese government has been informed of the accident investigation board report into the June crash, Martin said.