Military Photo: Pilots thrilled by CV-22 capabilities

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By Staff Sgt. Jeremy Larlee

Posted: 11/01/2006

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10/6/2006 - KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. (AFPN) -- Whenhe talks about his new aircraft, the CV-22 Osprey, the lieutenantcolonel's face lights up like a kid opening presents on his birthday.

After10 years of flying the MC-130H Combat Talon II, CV-22 instructor pilotLt. Col. Darryl Sheets, from the 8th Special Operations Squadron atHurlburt Field, Fla., said he has enjoyed his time in the aircraft.

"Whenit's in the airplane mode, to me this is like a C-130 sports car," hesaid. "It is probably three times more responsive and is a joy to fly."

The CV-22 has two distinct flying modes. It is able to rotateits rotors in different positions to hover like a helicopter or flylike a traditional prop-based aircraft like the C-130.

Colonel Sheets said it was an amazing feeling when he hovered for the first time.

"Ihad a smile from ear-to-ear," he said. "The aerodynamics of thisaircraft makes it extremely stable in hover and in the transitionbetween the two modes. My hat is off to the engineers who designed it."

Hovering is old news for Capt. Paul Alexander, a CV-22instructor pilot from the 8th SOS, who has 22 years of experienceflying helicopters in the Army and the Air Force. But the ability tofly at altitudes of 25,000 feet, about 15,000 feet higher than the hewas accustomed to in helicopters, and fly at cruising speeds about twotimes faster than a helicopter is exciting, he said.

"It'sbeen a lot of years since I have eagerly looked forward to every flightI take," he said. "This is what is keeping me in the military after 22years of service."

The two pilots are at Kirtland AFB to create the procedures for how the CV-22 will be deployed.

It is a humbling experience to know that generations of pilots will be using the work they created, Captain Alexander said.

"I'mliving the dream," he said. "It is an exciting time for us because weare in on the ground floor and writing the book on how we are going todeploy this aircraft."

Colonel Sheets said learning how tooperate the aircraft has been like going back to pilot school again. Hebelieves the CV-22 will be an integral piece of the Air Force's specialoperation's arsenal for years to come.

"Every day is a challenge at work," he said. "Something new comes up daily and this aircraft never ceases to amaze me."


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