Most Viewed Stories
Sun photographer's Osprey ride of a lifetime
Yuma Sun photographer Josh Peckler had the opportunity to ride along with the U.S. Marines in a V-22 Osprey. This is his firsthand account of the experience
Is it a helicopter? Is it a plane?
Those are two questions one might ask when seeing the V-22 Osprey for the first time. It is actually both, since the rotors can rotate up and down to take off like a helicopter. Once in the air, the rotors come down to fly like a normal plane.
Wednesday, I was fortunate enough to join the U.S. Marines as they flew a training mission into New Mexico inside an Osprey as part of the Weapons and Tactics Instructor (WTI) course that takes place twice a year at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma. Five other Ospreys would be joining us for the mission.
When I got the message the day before that my flight was approved, I cannot explain the exciting feeling I got that I would get to fly in such an unusual-looking aircraft. It is not too often that the military allows civilians to ride along in its aircraft, let alone join in on a training mission.
My morning Wednesday consisted of meeting a Marine public affairs officer at the front gate of MCAS Yuma. I was brought to the headquarters of Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1 (MAWTS-1) to wait for a briefing about the possible time of my flight. Little did I know that I would be going on a full training mission lasting almost seven hours and involving two in-flight refuelings with a C-130 Hercules.
Once I found out the time my flight would be leaving, I picked up some snacks for such a long flight. As expected, there was no drink cart or in-flight movie during the flight.
After a few hours' wait, I was allowed to head out to the flight line, where I could check out the Osprey that I would be flying in. Since the Marines are in the middle of WTI, different aircraft continued to land and take off from the flight line, which was a sight in itself.
About a hour before the flight was scheduled to leave, I was quickly briefed about the headset and safety harness I would need to wear the whole flight. At that point, I was also told that I would be able to take pictures lying down as the back gate of the aircraft would be open during the flight.
Once I heard that, my inner adrenaline junkie came out. If I could have gotten a picture of my face at that moment, I am sure I would have looked like a little kid on Christmas morning about to open up his first present.
About 15 minutes before flight time, I was asked to stand a distance away from the Osprey as they prepared to take off. Several checks had to be made on the aircraft before it could be cleared to fly. Once the rotors started spinning, I was called back over to enter and take my seat so we could start taxiing along the runway.
Once on the runway, I looked out the window to see the rotors rotate so we could take off vertically off the runway. Once the rotors were in position, I could hear as they picked up thrust. Before I knew it, we were off the ground.
Once we were up in the air for about five minutes, I was given the signal that I was waiting for: I could now move to the back gate, lie down and take pictures right at the edge.
Imagine sticking your head out of moving car, and then multiply it. That is the feeling of peeking your head out of the back gate of an Osprey at 5,000 feet.
After staying at the back gate for quite awhile taking pictures, I was told by our crew chief to move back to my seat as we were preparing to meet up with one of the two C-130s for in-air refueling. After an unsuccessful refueling first attempt, we pulled away to let another Osprey take its chance at refueling. We had plenty of fuel, but since this was a training mission, I was told we would be given another chance later on.
After about another hour of flying, I heard over my headset that we were looking for a place to land somewhere in the middle of the New Mexico desert, to act as if we were dropping off supplies. I was lucky enough to catch a picture as another Osprey landed, kicking up a ton of dust. Before I knew it, we were back in the air on our return to Yuma.
There is one point in my story that I am not too proud of, but I figure it adds a little color to the experience. During our second attempt at in-air refueling, I learned that I didn't quite have the iron stomach that I thought I did. I don't need to explain more, but let's just say that the last few hours of my flight were not so pleasant.
After sitting in my seat for the next hour or so, let's say that I had a glimmer of happiness once I heard we were making our final approach to MCAS Yuma.
Back on the ground, I finally got to reflect on what I just experienced. The flight will be something I will truly remember for the rest of my life. I would also like to thank the brave members of our armed forces who take these types of aircraft into battle. It is all of you who help keep this nation safe and out of harm's way.
Also I would like to especially thank the U.S. Marines Public Affairs Office for setting up this wonderful and truly amazing experience.