Memorial Day Osprey Demonstration Highlights Unique Safety Concerns
June 3, 2010 — The downwash from the twin rotors of a V-22 Osprey broke branches and then turned the severed limbs into projectiles, some of which were fired into a nearby crowd that had gathered to watch the landing at a Staten Island park on Memorial Day. The demonstration during Fleet Week in New York City was intended to display unique operational capabilities of the V-22. It also unveiled the unique safety concerns for operations near crowds that may not have been fully considered until this point.
At least 10 people in the crowd of several hundred in Clove Lakes Park Preserve were injured with cuts, bruises and scrapes. City officials are now asking whether the organizers took the proper safety precautions.
The Osprey is a twin-engine turbo prop aircraft that is capable of fixed-wing aircraft speeds but can land vertically by tilting its engines straight up. Aircraft ground handlers and most of the general public know not to stand directly behind jet or propeller aircraft due to prop or jet blast. The vertical capabilities of the Osprey might cause people to assign a helicopter rotor blast safety margin (which is no less dangerous) since it is normal for people to walk up to a running helicopter and get in.
In the case of the Osprey, the aircraft is likely operating at near take-off power when it is in hover mode and thus the blast is quite significant. However, the blast is directed straight at the ground where it has no room to dissipate and flows outward like a thunderstorm downdraft putting nearby people, property, and in the case of this incident, mother nature in the direct path.
According to the NYDailyNews.com, Vickie Karp, a Parks spokeswoman, said that using the Osprey at NYC's Flushing Meadows Corona Park and Clove Lakes Park for Fleet Week demos was approved by Naval Aviation. She said the Osprey also was used in Boston and Maryland for similar events with no problems.
"We will work with relevant public safety and aviation authorities to assess what happened and determine whether and how such events can occur in city parks in the future," she said.