PR games after MV-22 Osprey starts (another) grassfire…

by Craig Hooper on February 21, 2010

The V-22 Osprey program has a magical ability to generate “good news” just as “bad news” breaks.

This PR gamesmanship has happened before.  Back in 2007, just hours after the MV-22 Osprey flubbed it’s arrival into Iraq, a CV-22 was sent out for a domestic SAR.  (Here are some details)

This week, an MV-22 Osprey released flares and, for the second time, started forest fire out on the East Coast.  It sure didn’t take long for Marine Corps Lt. General Trautman to pop out of the Pentagon and announce the compensatory “good news” that MV-22s were engaged in the Marja fig


Havelock News has some details on the fire:

A MV-22 Osprey from New River touched off a fire Thursday near the BT-11 Piney Island bombing range in Carteret County.

Pedro search and rescue helicopter crews from Cherry Point were able to put out the ground fire from the air before midnight, according to a release from Cherry Point.

The fire started when the Osprey, attached to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 264, released a flare during training. Flares are a defensive measure used to avoid attack from enemy air defense systems, according to the release.

The Carolina Coast Online noted that the fire was extinguished by an old HH-46 using aerial firefighting methods–something a MV-22 has yet to try.

Again–we need to be careful about operating MV-22s in fire-prone areas.  Better to be honest about the risks and prepare to handle ’em rather than to deny it and, well…risk disaster.  (Out West, the Marine Corps cannot risk being the cause of a big fire.) But, again, being forthright about risk demands a cultural change–a change that the current V-22 management team seems unprepared to make.



David Wagner March 31, 2010 at 5:21 pm

Mr. Hooper noticing anything about the MV-22, beyond repeating the rare overt publicity that Marine Air PAO programs thru releases and press availabilities, is laudable for anyone doing business with the Dept. of the Navy.

If Marine Air wants to address its yawning credibility gap on the V-22 program, they should open the books on ops and training, on the full spectrum of missions currently undertaken and planned. I challenge Major Bakkar or Gen. Trautman’s office to show where they’ve provided open press access to off-field training exercises here in the states. Of special interest would be off-field training ops at altitudes similar to Afghan conditions.

So far as I’ve been able to tell, and I’ve looked, Marine Air is playing it’s cards very close to the vest, authorizing only the minimum amount of operational flying necessary to rebuff the reasonable suspicion that the MV-22 isn’t really taking the load off of their legacy helos, and that both are mission limited in the 6,000 ft+ Afghan LZ’s common outside of lower Helmand valley. A cynical reader might easily conclude that the plan is to achieve the full MV-22 buy before its enormously high purchase / operating costs and practical mission restrictions are revealed.

Blacktail March 25, 2010 at 10:01 pm

That Major Aisha Bakkar, a V-22 spin-artist — was so quick to dismiss a problem that wasn’t even mentioned is very… revealing…

On an aside note, how’s the reduction of the V-22’s Carrier Deck Warping going? You know, the one caused by an exhaust so hot that is warps INCH-THICK-STEEL?
Come to think of it, how many conventional Helicopters have that problem? Like, say, the CH-53K?

Craig Hooper February 23, 2010 at 1:13 pm

Major–No conspiracy here. General Trautman’s staff probably has a google alert set for “MV-22”. You did your job, and I commend you for that. It’s great that you’re letting your region know what’s going on.

Problem is that then somebody up the food chain probably did theirs–i.e. crisis management.

(Just as an aside, even if it’s inadvertent, you gotta admit it’s interesting that the same kinda thing has happened twice.)

Now, regarding the cause. I said that the MV-22 released flares, I posted a direct quote from a local news story that cited flares. What more do you want? A headline of “Flares cause fire?” might be precise, but it ain’t the whole truth.

Ironically enough, the story I linked to from the Havelock paper ran with the headline, “Osprey touches off fire.” Now, I don’t see that you’ve left a message for them, saying “Highlighting the fact that the BT-11 fire was sparked by a flare from an Osprey as if it is an indicator of some problem unique to that platform is misleading and irresponsible.”

Read what I’ve written. I’m focusing on an operational point–managing fire risk in my fire-prone region–the West Coast. To be honest, we don’t know if this fire isn’t an indicator of a problem unique to the Osprey. That’s the point. How many flare/chaff fires get started in such wet conditions? And are intense enough to burn to the point where they need a helicopter water drop to put it out? What do your records say?

My records show Havelock got .07 inches of rain two days before the fire…on top of 8 inches of snow (about .5 inches of water) five days before the fire. That’s not exactly forest fire weather. Why did this fire happen? And how can we prevent a similar fire from happening in conditions that are, ah, a little more fire friendly than a drab February day on the Coast of North Carolina?

I don’t know.

But I do know that getting an answer to that question starts by getting the initial information out there. And, for that, I thank you, and I urge you to continue being an information resource for your community. The North Carolina coast is lucky to have you.

BigHat February 23, 2010 at 8:42 am

I’m so tired of these hatchet jobs on V-22. Craig why maintain any veil of impartiality?

Hurting for a lead on your next V-22 story Craig? Here’s a lead you may wish to consider. V-22 Crew Chief discovered leaving the dentist office. Has the Corps been covering up the link between the V-22 and tooth decay?

Major Aisha Bakkar February 22, 2010 at 2:09 pm

Good afternoon Mr. Hooper,

I came across your article today concerning the Osprey. As the public affairs officer who released the information on the BT-11 fire, I was disappointed with your “conspiracy theory” tone.

Contrary to what you may believe, our release was not coordinated through Headquarters Marine Corps. We don’t have standing operating procedures that require us to immediately coordinate release of positive MV-22 information following anything that could be perceived as negative.

Flares are certainly not unique to the Osprey. Highlighting the fact that the BT-11 fire was sparked by a flare from an Osprey as if it is an indicator of some problem unique to that platform is misleading and irresponsible.

It is clear that you have an agenda and your reporting fails to separate fact from theory. I would challenge you to refrain from scouring the web for anything negative you could find to discredit any positive story about the MV-22.

The Public Affairs school I attended taught “maximum disclosure with minimum delay” of FACTS, a policy regulation you can review on-line — SECNAVINST 5720.44B.

Neither I, nor my sister service PAOs, attended the public relations school of “gamesmanship” as you so eloquently put it.

How refreshing it would be to find a reporter who is actually objective….the basic tenet of responsible journalism. I understand that you may post this e-mail to your website. I hope you have the integrity and feel equally compelled to post the entire response, rather than taking any of my comments further out of context to support your “gamesmanship” theory.

Major Aisha M Bakkar
Director, Joint Public Affairs Office
MCAS Cherry Point/ 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing
PSC Box 8013
Cherry Point, NC 29533-0013

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