After Long Road, Osprey Set to Fly

The Marine Corps plans to send the Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft into combat zones within a year and is activating a squadron of the tilt-rotor planes this week.

Marine medium tiltrotor squadron 263, is to be formally activated Friday.

It will carry the Vietnam-era ``Thunder Chickens'' nickname -the same moniker of  the helicopter unit it is replacing,

The Pentagon approved full production of the Osprey in a 19 billion-dollar program last year.

There are about 250 people in the squadron and nine aircraft.

The Osprey is assembled in Amarillo from components made by FortWorth-based Bell Helicopter Textron and Boeing's suburban Philadelphia-area-based helicopter division.

The Osprey, which takes off and lands like a helicopter and flies like an airplane, had a troubled start. Four marines died in a 2000 crash in North Carolina that was caused by a ruptured titanium hydraulic line. Nineteen others were killed in a crash that year in Arizona that investigators blamed on pilot error.

For more information on the Osprey and the tilt-rotor program visit the US Navy's Official Site.