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Test Team Touts Canadian Hospitality as Factor in Mission Success

By Ward Carroll NAVAIR (V-22) Public Affairs Officer

Osprey No. 24 returned to NAS Patuxent River on the afternoon of April 29 after spending six months conducting aircraft icing tests from Canadian Forces Base Shearwater near Halifax, Nova Scotia. During the detachment, Osprey No. 24 logged 67 hours, 37 of which were in actual icing conditions.

The accumulation of ice on flight control surfaces has always been a potential hazard to aviators. The rapid buildup of ice on wings can dramatically change an aircraft’s flight characteristics, in extreme cases rendering it unable to fly. Generally, pilots don’t fly in ice. Because of the nature of the V-22’s mission – rapidly getting combat troops and supplies where they are needed – Osprey crews may not always have the luxury of avoiding bad weather. As a result, the Osprey has a requirement for a robust and capable ice detection and anti-ice system.

“The prototype icing system worked better than expected,” said Maj. Frank Conway, USMC, who, along with Chief Corporate Test Pilot Tom Macdonald, flew all of the icing test flights. “Other than tweaking the algorithms that control when the wing boots inflate to remove ice and at what temperature heat is sent out to the prop-rotors, there was very little redesigning of the system done while we were in Halifax.” Maj. Conway noted that the only major configuration change engineers are investigating is where to move the icing detection probe to provide the timeliest feedback to the pilots.

“The detachment was extremely successful,” said Don Byrne, who alternated Integrated Test Team Flight Test Director responsibilities with the ITT’s Paul Gambacorta. “We cleared all temperature and liquid water content ranges, so now we’re able to fly for extended periods of time in all weather conditions.”

Maj. Conway was quick to attribute much of the ITT’s success to their Canadian hosts: “They treated us like their own for the duration of our time there. The facilities and parts support were fantastic. The weather briefs were dead on. When we were airborne the controllers would give us real-time weather updates and did everything in their power to help us find ice to fly in. They kept us from wasting any time.”

The team will return to Shearwater next November for another six months, focusing on longer flights in icing conditions, failure modes, helicopter mode flight, and the overall performance and reliability of the production configuration of the anti-ice system. Maj. Conway was sanguine about the prospect of another lengthy period away from Pax. “I look at my time back in Maryland as a det away from my new home in Canada,” he said with a laugh. “Being away is always a challenge, but the hospitality of the Canadians combined with an opportunity for more successful testing make that much easier.”

“Our goal out of the next period is to have a system in place that fully meets the V-22 system design specifications,” said Col. Craig Olson, USAF, V-22 Joint Program Manager. “When we’re done, Osprey crews will have an anti-ice system with capabilities shared by very few rotorcraft.”

Caption for photo: Osprey No. 24 touches down at NAS Patuxent River on April 29 following a successful six-month aircraft icing test period in Canada. (Photo by Roger Lejune)