[Editor’s Note: The Boeing V-22 Osprey, a modern marvel of aerospace engineering, had a pretty rough start in its life. It’s a very expensive aircraft, and was also responsible for a rather notable number of deaths during testing. Even so, the aircraft has matured into a mainstay for both conventional and special operations airlift for the United States Air Force and the United States Marine Corps. Even the Navy is looking at the Osprey for assuming the COD duties held by the venerable Northrop-Grumman C-2 Greyhound.]
Today was not just another routine flight for 1st Lt. Erik Erlandson, of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Training Squadron 204. Today was the day that he proved his skills as an MV-22B Osprey pilot. Today was the day that he was judged against the strict standards and requirements of the Naval Air Training and Operating Procedures Standardization Program. Today was the day he completed the final steps toward joining the Marine Corps fleet as a fully qualified copilot. Today, he graduated.
Erlandson completed his final flight with VMMT-204 at Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina, Jan. 12. Maj. Matthew Cave, student control officer for the training squadron, evaluated Erlandson during the flight to confirm his preparedness to join the operating forces.
“We provide new pilots and crew chiefs to the fleet,” said Cave. “Today we are doing a check ride [which is] basically the final event before they graduate.”
Leading up to the check ride, pilots received classroom instruction, basic manipulation of the airplane, basic maneuvering, formations, instrument flying, confined area landings, low altitude tactics, night systems and much more. Erlandson completed two flights in the simulator for every one flown in the sky. The beauty of the simulator is that instructors can freeze, replay and do over as much as much as they need to — exposing student pilots to any scenario they might actually face. The entire syllabus is about four months long, Cave said.
“By our standards, I should be able to ask him any question about the core skills of the V-22 [such as] our operating manual, the airplane limitations, emergencies and basic maneuvering,” said Cave. “He knows all that and I’ll be quizzing him on it today to make sure that he is good enough to leave here.”
During the check ride, Erlandson demonstrated his skills in communication as well as a flying. He was required to speak with range control to clear landing space; as well as, be aware of any obstacles in the area, such as parachutists. While in flight, he proved his knowledge in several different approaches, landing and tactical maneuvers.
“I was pretty nervous getting to the brief because there is so much to be quizzed on and a lot of limitations that you have to know,” said Erlandson. “But once I got through the brief I felt pretty confident going into the flight.”
At the end of the check ride, both pilots knew the flight went smoothly and Erlandson had proven he was ready to move on to the fleet. He is prepared to take the next step in his career as the newest pilot with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 365.
“Advice that I would give to new pilots is to study early and often,” said Erlandson. “I know that it can be overwhelming at first, but if you stay the course and take small bites at a time it’ll add up and you’ll be well prepared to continue on.”
United States Marines Corporal Michelle Reif’s original article can be viewed here.
(Featured Photo courtesy of Corporal Michelle Reif/USMC)