That big aircraft assembly plant next to Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport has a new gig.
The MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft being assembled out there is now being assigned to carry key White House personnel as part of the Marine Corps presidential security detail.
Maybe one day, the cutting-edge birds will be hauling the president himself (or herself) to and from the White House.
The Osprey has come a long way from its formative years when Bell Helicopter returned to Amarillo in 1999 thanks to a grant awarded by the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation. The plane, which lifts off like a helicopter and then flies like a conventional fixed-wing aircraft, has had its fits and starts — and its share of tragedy. It has crashed with Marines aboard, killing 19 of them once on a training mission in Arizona. The Marine Corps and Bell engineers fixed what was wrong with the bird and put it back into the air.
Mechanical difficulties have grounded the Osprey on other occasions. The Pentagon stayed with it, lobbying Congress to keep funding the program.
It’s been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, where it has ferried troops and supplies to and from the battlefield.
Now, according to Politico, the Osprey has been used to fly White House support staff and equipment to Martha’s Vineyard, where President Obama has been vacationing with his family.
Any kind of state-of-the-art aircraft is going to have trouble. That’s been the history of U.S. aviation. The Osprey in that context is no different from other aircraft.
The bird that’s being built in Amarillo is earning its wings with an important new mission.
Well done, Bell.