This year the US Marine Corps sent a V-22 Osprey up to the Hiller Vertical Challenge Helicopter Show. The V-22 is an amazing tilt rotor aircraft that flies like an airplane but lands like a helicopter. It can carry 24 combat troops and it goes twice as fast as a helicopter and can go twice as far as one too. I'm really lucky to get to interview its pilot, Capt. Dibble.
Captain, it must be super competitive to get to be a V-22 pilot. Was it hard to get to the position where you get the fly it?
Well Evan, honestly it is competitive to be a military pilot anytime, not just with the V-22. Anytime you get guys that are going out to fly jets and helicopters or anything like that it's going to be a difficult job. It was competitive for me to get into the V-22. It was difficult. I had to really put a lot of effort into studying and all that kind of stuff but it's one of the best decisions I ever made. I’ve had nothing but fun doing it ever since. The hard work was worth it.
What's it like to fly to V-22. Is it a helicopter, an airplane, a mix, or is it just different?
It's really different. We like to think of ourselves as an airplane that can land like a helicopter not a helicopter that flies like an airplane. This thing wants to be an airplane and it does much better as an airplane. It can go a long way when you get the engines rolled down and you turn it into a propeller airplane. It doesn't do nearly as well when it's flying along like a helicopter, it just doesn't go as far or as fast. It’s not as comfortable.
So you like it a lot better as an airplane?
I do. It’s a lot of fun to go 250 knots and you’re not going to do that in a helicopter.
So what other airplanes or aircraft have you flown?
Well I started off flying airplanes like the 172. I flew in a Piper PA 28 Cherokee when I was in training and I transitioned to what’s called a T-34 which is a single engine airplane that the Navy flies in training. I also flew what’s called a TC-12 which is a multiengine trainer that the military flies out of Corpus Christi Texas. That's where I trained on that. I've also flown what's called a TH-57 which is a Bell Jet Ranger helicopter and I flew that for a few hours as well. That was all prior to the V-22 and that got me ready to be where I need to be here.
I heard that the V-22 won't auto rotate like a helicopter and can’t land like an airplane. What do you do if you lose an engine in flight? Can it glide and land like a plane?
Well, if we lose one engine in flight, that's not really an issue for us. The whole airplane is designed to be able to fly on one engine. It was designed from the beginning for that. It has an engine on each end of the wing but unlike a typical multiengine airplane, it actually has a driveshaft like on a truck or something like that that runs from one engine to the other and will actually go ahead and keep both propellers spinning for us. So the only time that we would have to auto rotate or anything like that is if we lost both engines.
The engineers when they designed it took that into account as well and we have a wing on the airplane that we like to make use of in addition to any autorotative capabilities that we have from the propellers. It’d be stupid not to. If it's not going to generate lift for us then it's just going to be extra weight. So we go ahead and try to keep lift on the wings even when we’re auto rotating all the way until the very end when we come to land. The wing will generate lift as low as 40 knots so we usually aim for about a 40 knot autorotative roll on landing. It’s completely survivable if you do that. Nobody's ever tested it before but if we ever have to in a real-life situation or real-life emergency, we'd feel completely comfortable doing it. We train to that standard.
Now that's pretty cool!
That’s fun but not in real life though. In a simulator!
You must feel really proud to be assigned to the aircraft. Have you used it in Iraq or Afghanistan?
Absolutely. I have flown this airplane in Iraq. I was over in Iraq from April to October of 2008 and we flew the thing all over western Al Anbar province and throughout the Operation Iraqi Freedom area of operations. We flew from al-Assad air base in western Iraq and we ranged throughout the entire country. We flew all over the place both day and night landing wherever they told us to land.
Did you see combat or did you get shot at?
Well honestly, I don't know if we got shot at. We were flying along so high and so fast it was very difficult to see tracers. We don't know if you're really getting shot at or not but I’ve never had a round impact an aircraft that I was in and I never felt like I was in danger in this airplane.
Have you had any accidents in any airplanes or any crashes?
No I've never crashed an airplane or had an accident.
Thank you! That's what we train for. We train to keep ourselves safe but also to God forbid, we get into a situation where we have to actually have some sort of an issue, we were trained to do that as well.
So why did you choose the Marine Corps instead of the Air Force or the Navy?
Well, honestly I chose the Marine Corps when I was coming out of college and I chose the Marine Corps because I actually wanted to be a Marine ground officer. I wanted to join as an infantry officer. It wasn’t until after I spoke with the recruiters at the recruiting station who told me I could be a pilot and from then it was game over. I went ahead and went the pilot route. But in the Marine Corps we have a unique mission in that we are required to be ready to go out and be a ground officer as well as a pilot. Actually, I just got done with a tour in Iraq on the ground training the Iraqi army in western Al Anbar province. We were out chasing terrorists around in Humvees.
That's pretty insane!
It’s unique. It's not something that people are used to.
Do you have any cool flying or combat stories that you could share with me?
Well I got to tell you; every time I go flying in this thing it's really cool. It's really something else. We can go out and land this airplane anywhere. We can take it pretty much anywhere. I’ve flown missions as far as 1200 miles on a single tank of gas. And at the end of that we can go out and land in somebody's backyard if we wanted to. Obviously we’re not going to do that. It’s going to wake up the neighbors among other things, but it's a possibility that we can take advantage of if the person that’s living in that house happens to be a terrorist.
So cool! Thank you so much for coming to the 2010 Hiller Vertical Challenge!
It’s my pleasure. The entire crew has had a great time on the airplane and a great time talking to folks like yourself. Everybody's really enthusiastic and enthusiasm breeds enthusiasm and we’ve just had a great time up here talking to you all, having a good time, and seeing everybody else out here.
Do you think you’ll be here next year?
Well, that's not my decision but I know the crew has had a great time and we'll just have to see whether or not the squadron can support it.
I know that everybody is looking forward to you coming back next year.
Hopefully we have the opportunity to come back again. If we can pull it off as a squadron and we have the flight hours available and we have the aircraft available then I’m sure it’s something that they're looking at.
Thank you so much
My pleasure Evan, it was a pleasure meeting you.
You can watch this interview! Just click on the Vimeo tab at the top of the page and go look for it!