Department of Defense pressed to examine safety of Osprey aircraft after fatal crash, killing Massachusetts Air Force member
A day after Pittsfield native Jacob “Jake” Galliher was laid to rest, several members of the Massachusetts federal delegation sent a letter to the secretary of defense demanding the safety of the V-22 Osprey aircraft be examined.
Galliher, a staff sergeant in the U.S. Air Force, died at age 24 in late November when the Osprey he and seven other service members had been operating crashed off the coast of Japan.
Galliher’s remains were the first to be found after the Osprey went down Nov. 29 during a training mission just off Yakushima Island in southwestern Japan. A week later, the U.S. military grounded all its V-22 Osprey aircraft after a preliminary investigation indicated something went wrong that was not human error.
In a letter sent Thursday to Department of Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III, U.S. Sens. Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren, and Rep. Richard Neal, highlighted how the latest mishap is part of an “alarming trend” spanning three decades of serious incidents involving the V-22 Osprey’s operation.
The military finds the U.S.-made Osprey particularly useful because the hybrid aircraft takes off and lands like a typical helicopter, but it can rotate its propellers forward and cruise much faster, like an airplane, during flight.
Since the aircraft’s initial development and entry into service in 2007, however, it’s been involved in 14 crashes resulting in 54 deaths, including “another constituent of ours,” Markey, Warren and Neal stated.
Marine Corps Capt. Ross A. Reynolds, a MV-22B Osprey pilot and native of Leominster, died in a crash near Bodø, Norway, while participating in Exercise Cold Response 2022, on March 18.
“The repeated incidents involving the V-22 Osprey raise glaringly troubling questions about its safe operation,” the three politicians wrote.
The Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps grounded hundreds of aircraft on Dec. 6 after a preliminary investigation indicated that a material failure — that something went wrong with the aircraft — rather than a mistake by the crew led to last month’s crash.
Markey, Warren and Neal are demanding the Department of Defense to answer questions about the status of investigations into recent Osprey crashes, whether there were any warnings that the flight killed Galliher should not have happened, and whether manufacturers have informed officials about specific safety concerns of the aircraft, among other inquiries.
The trio requested the department respond by the end of January.
“No other U.S. service member should be injured or perish in a V-22 Osprey accident or mishap,” Markey, Warren and Neal wrote. “We urge the Defense Department, and the Departments of the Air Force and the Navy to ensure that the V-22 Osprey is safe to fly before allowing servicemembers from across the Commonwealth and the United States back on board.”
In Japan, where U.S. military Ospreys had a non-fatal crash once and a number of incidents, the latest accident has rekindled safety concerns just as the Japanese government builds a new base for its fleet of Ospreys.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters in Tokyo the government has formally requested that the U.S. military ensure the safety of Ospreys before their flights, but that Tokyo will seek further information from the U.S. side because it also affects the safety of Japan’s own Osprey fleet.
Following last month’s crash, the U.S. military, alongside Japanese forces and civilian volunteers, conducted an intensive search, rescue and recovery mission for the eight Airmen, spanning 13 days of 24-hour operations, according to the Air Force Special Operations Command.
The remains of seven Airmen had been recovered by Dec. 14, while there was a combined Japan-U.S. effort in locating and recovering the eighth body, according to the Command. There have been no updates since.
Galliher, remembered as a husband, dad, brother and son with bright plans for the future, was laid to rest on Wednesday.
“The Air Force has core values. Jake had those values. Integrity first, service before self, excellence in all that we do,” said the Rev. Christopher Malatesta during Galliher’s funeral at St. Agnes Parish in Dalton. “The Air Force has defined in Jake what most of us already knew: He was outstanding and spectacular. He was fun and lovable. He was truly honorable.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report
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