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Pilot error caused V-22 Osprey crash that killed 4 Marines, investigation says

MV-22 Osprey assigned to 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, II Marine Expeditionary Force, at Exercise Cold Response 2022, in Harstad, Norway, Feb. 19, 2022. (Capt. Katrina Herrera/U.S. Marine Corps)
August 16, 2022

A March MV-22 Osprey crash in Norway that killed four U.S. Marines was the result of a pilot error, according to the results of an investigation first released Sunday.

The 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (2nd MAW) conducted the investigation into the March 18 crash of Marine Corps MV-22B Osprey, call sign “Ghost 31.” The aircraft was assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 261.

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“The investigation concluded that the cause for the aviation accident was pilot error,” 2nd MAW spokesperson 1st Lt. Greg Kosiras said in a statement on Sunday.

2nd MAW conducted the investigation and the findings were endorsed by the wing’s then-commanding general Maj. Gen. Michael S. Cederholm. The full report is available for download in five separate portions that are each over 100 pages long.

Kosiras explained that “pilot error” is any situation where “the pilot’s inputs, or lack of appropriate inputs, made to the controls or systems of the aircraft were a causal factor, directly contributing to the mishap.”

The four Marines killed in the crash included Capt. Matthew J. Tomkiewicz, the aircraft commander; Capt. Ross A. Reynolds, the co-pilot; Gunnery Sgt. James W. Speedy, the aerial observer; and Cpl. Jacob M. Moore, the crew chief.

Ghost 31 had departed Bodø, Norway, on a training flight in support of Exercise Cold Response 2022. The aircraft initially returned to the base to refuel after conducting local-area familiarization flights and confined-area landings. Ghost 31 departed again but deviated from the preplanned and authorized flight area and entered the Gråtådalen Valley at around 4:22 p.m. local time. Investigators believe the aircraft impacted against the eastern side of the valley at around 4:23 p.m.

The report states the pilot conducted a “series of maneuvers” at a low altitude while flying through the Gråtådalen Valley. The maneuvers reportedly “exceeded the maximum angle-of-bank for an MV22B Osprey, which caused a loss of altitude, airspeed, and turning room from which the aircrew and aircraft were unable to recover.”

The report specifically said Ghost 31 first made a left turn at 68 degrees angle-of-bank, which exceeds the 60 degree limit specified in Naval Air Training and Operating Procedures Standardization Manual for the aircraft. Ghost 31 then overcorrected from that first left turn with a second right turn in excess of 80 degrees “from which the aircraft could not recover.”

Investigators said it is not known which of the two qualified pilots — Tomkiewicz and Reynolds — was in control of the aircraft when it crashed.

The investigation also looked into factors like weather and environmental conditions, low-altitude training procedures, maintenance errors, inexperience in mountainous environments, and the use of recording devices. The investigation ultimately concluded these five other factors did not play a role in the crash.

Norwegian police and Norwegian Armed Forces — which were training with U.S. Marines during Exercise Cold Response 2022 — helped in the efforts to recover the crashed U.S. aircraft.

“We are extremely thankful for the support provided by the Kingdom of Norway, including the Norwegian Armed Forces, Hoved Redning Sentralen, and civil authorities at the federal level and within the Nordland District,” Kosiras said towards the end of the press statement. “We are additionally grateful to our allies that contributed or offered various assets and people in the search-and-rescue efforts and extended their condolences. We are grateful for their efforts and professional commitment to long and enduring relationships.

Five more Marines were killed in another Osprey crash in Imperial County, Calif. in June.

The military also released footage last month of a 2017 Osprey crash aboard USS Green Bay (LPD-20), which resulted in the deaths of three Marines.