A CV-22 Osprey lands at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., Oct. 5 after flying an air-refueling mission. This versatile, self-deployable aircraft offers increased speed and range over other rotary-wing aircraft and can perform missions that normally would require both fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech Sgt. Cecilio M. Ricardo Jr.)
A CV-22 Osprey flies an air-refueling mission Oct. 5 over New Mexico. The CV-22 adds new capability and fills a long-standing U.S. Special Operations Command requirement to conduct long-range infiltration, exfiltration and resupply missions during night operations. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech Sgt. Cecilio M. Ricardo Jr.)
A CV-22 Osprey flies an air-refueling mission Oct. 5 over New Mexico. The CV-22 can take off vertically and, once airborne, rotate the nacelles on each wing -- engine and prop-rotor group -- to a forward position. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech Sgt. Cecilio M. Ricardo Jr.)
A CV-22 Osprey flies an air-refueling mission Oct. 5 over New Mexico. The CV-22 Osprey is a tiltrotor aircraft that combines the vertical takeoff, hover and vertical landing qualities of a helicopter with the long-range, fuel efficiency and speed characteristics of a turboprop aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech Sgt. Cecilio M. Ricardo Jr.)
10/6/2006 - KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. (AFPN) -- When he talks about his new aircraft, the CV-22 Osprey, the lieutenant colonel's face lights up like a kid opening presents on his birthday.
After 10 years of flying the MC-130H Combat Talon II, CV-22 instructor pilot Lt. Col. Darryl Sheets, from the 8th Special Operations Squadron at Hurlburt Field, Fla., said he has enjoyed his time in the aircraft.
"When it's in the airplane mode, to me this is like a C-130 sports car," he said. "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 rotate its rotors in different positions to hover like a helicopter or fly like a traditional prop-based aircraft like the C-130.
Colonel Sheets said it was an amazing feeling when he hovered for the first time.
"I had a smile from ear-to-ear," he said. "The aerodynamics of this aircraft makes it extremely stable in hover and in the transition between the two modes. My hat is off to the engineers who designed it."
Hovering is old news for Capt. Paul Alexander, a CV-22 instructor pilot from the 8th SOS, who has 22 years of experience flying helicopters in the Army and the Air Force. But the ability to fly at altitudes of 25,000 feet, about 15,000 feet higher than the he was accustomed to in helicopters, and fly at cruising speeds about two times faster than a helicopter is exciting, he said.
"It's been a lot of years since I have eagerly looked forward to every flight I take," he said. "This is what is keeping me in the military after 22 years 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'm living the dream," he said. "It is an exciting time for us because we are in on the ground floor and writing the book on how we are going to deploy this aircraft."
Colonel Sheets said learning how to operate the aircraft has been like going back to pilot school again. He believes the CV-22 will be an integral piece of the Air Force's special operation'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."