Marine Corps Says it Had FAA OK for no lights : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread


Marine Corps Says it Had FAA OK By ARTHUR H. ROTSTEIN, Associated Press Writer

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) -- In a statement that conflicts with FAA findings, the military said it had approval to fly aircraft without lights during a nighttime exercise that ended with the deaths of 19 Marines.

There is no indication that a lack of lights contributed to last Saturday's crash of an MV-22 Osprey in Marana, about 30 miles northwest of Tucson. Investigators have not determined a cause.

During the exercise, two Ospreys, tiltrotor aircraft that can take off and land like a helicopter and fly like an airplane, flew over the Marana Northwest Regional Airport while two others flew several miles away.

As the two aircraft at the airport began descending vertically like helicopters, one nosed 200 feet to the ground and exploded. Officials said the aircraft had their lights off and that the pilots used night vision goggles during the exercise.

Mitch Barker, a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman in Seattle, said the western regional office had not received the required waiver request from the Marine Corps concerning last weekend's exercise.

However, Maj. David C. Andersen, a Marine spokesman at the Pentagon, said the lights-out flight was approved.

''The Marine Corps aircraft did have an FAA waiver to fly with night vision devices and did have their lights off,'' he said.

FAA regulations -- such as requiring the use of lights on night flights -- normally take precedence over a civilian airport such as the one at Marana, unless there has been a waiver request for special use of the air space.

The Marine Corps Air Station at Yuma, where the exercise originated, also issued a series of notices through the FAA to alert agencies and pilots around Phoenix and Tucson that the Marine Corps would be conducting large-scale air operations, Andersen said.

A notice covering all aspects of the mission -- including lights and use of night vision goggles -- was issued on March 25, Anderson said.

Paul Turk, an FAA spokesman in Washington, D.C., said FAA flight standards staffers had told him Thursday ''there has not been a request along those lines.'' Barker was checking further.

-- Martin Thompson (, April 15, 2000

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