Written for Vertical Magazine
On Tuesday evening, the United States Marine Corps invaded the main parking lot of the world-renowned Museum of Flight in Seattle.
It’s “Marine Week” in Seattle, and as part of the annual Seafair Festival, the Marines were setting up a static display of their aircraft and ground equipment. Open to the public from Wednesday until Sunday, the display is part of the Museum’s “Need for Speed Festival.” Three Marine aircraft were towed from the east side of Boeing Field – a McDonnell Douglas AV-8B Harrier II, a Bell AH-1Z Viper/Zulu Cobra, and a Bell-Boeing MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor. Ground equipment included an Abrams main battle tank which arrived on its massive trailer, and left tread-prints on the asphalt parking lot as it was moved into position.
The twin-engine Bell AH-1Z is the latest Marine attack helicopter, with roots going back to the Vietnam-era AH-1. Other than the basic two-crew tandem configuration, little of the original Snake is common with the new, high-tech Viper. The AH-1Z has a four-blade, hingeless, bearingless rotor system with composite blades, advanced avionics and targeting systems, and the crew wear helmets with integrated sight and display systems. The Viper can also fight in the air with Sidewinder air-to-air missiles. The Viper on display is from Marine Light Attack Helicopter Training Squadron (HMLAT) 303, stationed in Camp Pendleton, California.
The unique Bell-Boeing MV-22 Osprey is from the “White Knights”, VMM-165, based at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, near San Diego. It was flown up the west coast by Captain Bill Hannan and Captain Chris Ryan. Both pilots came right out of flight school and into the pilots’ seats of the Osprey. “In basic flight training, we started with the Beechcraft T-34, then the turboprop Beechcraft T-6 Texan II,” explains Hannan. “Once we were assigned to the MV-22, we flew the Bell JetRanger and Beechcraft King Air before flying the Osprey. We call ourselves ‘Purebreds’, having only flown the MV-22 operationally,” he added.
Both pilots are enthusiastic about the performance and capability of the big tilt-rotor aircraft. The cabin is about the same size as the U.S. Army’s Short C23 Sherpa, which was based on the civilian Short 330 twin-turboprop. “The MV-22 is amazingly smooth and quiet at cruise, but it gets pretty noisy in the hover, along with a bit of a lateral vibration,” says Hannan
In comparison to the new Osprey and Viper, the V/STOL McDonnell Douglas AV-8B Harrier II has been in service almost 30 years. Still a formidable weapons system, and one of the noisiest planes seen and heard at airshows, the Harrier is due to be replaced by the Lockheed Martin F-35B.
The Marines will be participating in the Seafair airshow on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with an Air-Ground Task Force Demonstration at a park on the shore of Seattle’s Lake Washington. The demo will be followed by the airshow’s headliners, the U.S. Navy “Blue Angels.”