CMV-22B Ferry Flight Fuses Developmental, Operational Testing

The CMV-22B Osprey lands at NAS Patuxent River Feb. 2 after completing a ferry flight from Bell’s Military Aircraft Assembly & Delivery Center in Amarillo, Texas. U.S. Navy photo by Liz Mildenstein

The recent cross-country flight of the Navy’s new CMV-22B Carrier Onboard Delivery (COD) variant of the Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft was not only a milestone for the program, but also demonstrated the effective fusion of developmental and operational test in a real-world environment.

Over a two-day flight totaling just over 6.5 hours in the air, pilots Lt. Cmdr. Steve “Sanchez” Tschanz, Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (HX) 21, and Cmdr. Kristopher “Junk” Carter of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 1, along with crew chief Naval Aircrewman (Mechanical) 1st Class Devon Heard flew the first CMV-22B from the Bell Military Aircraft Assembly & Delivery Center in Amarillo, Texas, to Naval Air Station (NAS) Patuxent River, Maryland, in early February.

The first flight of the aircraft outside of the manufacturer’s test area mirrored many of the conditions that the aircraft will encounter when operational.

“It was a great opportunity for operational and developmental testers to work together on the same flight,” said Tschanz.

Carter agreed with Tschanz’ assessment. “The biggest litmus test I have when we start out on operational tests is to find a mission that is representative of what we’re going to do with the aircraft once it is in the fleet,” Carter said. “With this flight, we got an early look at operational testing while we’re also doing developmental tests.”

“From a crew chief’s perspective, on this trip I was able to see both the developmental test side and the operational side integrated in one,” said Heard, who was a 2nd class at the time of the flight and has since been promoted.

The first Navy CMV-22 Carrier Onboard Delivery Variant of the V-22 Osprey flies above the Chesapeake Bay March 9. U.S. Navy photo by Erik Hildebrandt .

The role of developmental testing, which is the mission of HX-21, is to identify whether an aircraft or system meets the promised specifications. Operational testing, which is what VX-1 does, focuses on the ability of an aircraft or system to operate in the environments that it will encounter once it is deployed to the fleet.

Prior to the flight, Tschanz, Heard, Bell test pilot Andrew Bankston, and Naval Air Crewman (Mechanical) 2nd Class Trenton Olsheski conducted a series of developmental test flights to ensure the aircraft met its specifications. Following those test flights, it was time to deliver the aircraft to NAS Patuxent River.

Or, more accurately, almost time—the crew ended up waiting nearly a week for the weather to open up between Texas and Maryland. Because the aircraft was fitted with extensive test equipment, the flight was limited to clear weather and daylight hours.

On Saturday, Feb. 1, the weather finally cooperated and Tschanz, Carter and Heard flew first to Millington, Tennessee, for a refueling stop before continuing on to Patuxent River. Having flown together before, the three men quickly fell into a routine: while Tschanz was flying the aircraft, for example, Carter would be busy monitoring communications and Heard kept his eye on the weather.

The first Navy CMV-22 Carrier Onboard Delivery Variant of the V-22 Osprey flies above the Chesapeake Bay March 9. U.S. Navy photo by Erik Hildebrandt .

The Osprey’s high-visibility paint scheme, which the Navy uses to help make it easier to identify noncombatant aircraft, was part of the attraction when the aircraft landed in Millington, where the Naval Support Activity Mid-South base is located.

“There’s usually a certain amount of interest when a unique aircraft flies into any airport where that type normally doesn’t operate,” Tschanz said. “But in this case it was even more fun because we landed and people said, ‘Oh, that’s a V-22,’ and then immediately you can see the gears start turning in their heads as they start to realize that something is different about it.”

After refueling, the crew departed in the afternoon, expecting to arrive at Patuxent River in the late afternoon. But approximately nine-tenths of the way home, the weather started closing in over their destination, and the crew diverted to Lynchburg, Virginia, to wait out the rain overnight. And like in Millington, Tschanz, Carter, and Heard found themselves instant celebrities as pilots and aviation enthusiasts descended on them to ask questions about their unique Osprey.

The following morning, Tschanz, Carter, and Heard flew through clear skies to land at NAS Patuxent River, bringing a successful close to the aircraft’s first cross-country flight.

“We have a lot of tests to do before we know everything about the airplane, but this initial look was great,” Carter said of the flight.

“There was a lot of excitement, eagerness and anxiousness to be able to fly the first CMV-22B back to HX-21,” Heard said. “Now we own it and we’re ready to move forward.”

Written by Paul Lagasse, Naval Test Wing Atlantic Communications

VX-20 Sunsets Its C-2A Greyhound

U.S. Navy photo by Erik Hildebrandt

C-2A Greyhound BuNo 162142 made its final flight March 19 after 27 years with Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 20. The Navy is retiring the C-2A from the carrier onboard delivery role which is being replaced by the CMV-22B Osprey. There are currently 33 C-2s in the fleet, operated by the “Providers” of Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VRC) 30 located at Naval Air Station North Island, California, and the “Rawhides” of VRC-40 at Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia. The CMV-22B is expected to reach full operational capability in 2023 and replace the C-2A by 2024.