- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 30, 2001

ASSOCIATED PRESS
The Pentagon has concluded that the commander of the Marine Corps' V-22 Osprey squadron falsified maintenance records but that the deception played no role in two fatal crashes of the tilt-rotor aircraft, Defense Department officials said yesterday.
The Pentagon's inspector general also concluded that a small number of Marine officers at Marine Corps Air Station at New River, N.C., knew of the falsification and took no action to correct or report it, the officials said.
Navy Capt. Timothy Taylor, a Pentagon spokesman, said the conclusions have been provided to Marine Corps headquarters and the full investigation report will be given to the Marines in early July.
In an anonymous letter to the office of the secretary of the Navy on Jan. 12, a person who said he was an Osprey mechanic at New River wrote that aircraft unable to fly had been reported "as being up, as in full mission capable."
"This type of deception has been going on for over two years," the tipster said.
The squadron's commander, Lt. Col. Odin Fred Leberman, was relieved of duty the day the accusations became public.
The Osprey uses revolutionary technology to take off like a helicopter, rotate its propellers to a horizontal position and cruise like an airplane. Despite the crashes last year, the Marines say they are confident the technology works, and an independent panel that reviewed the program this spring agreed.
Col. Leberman has not commented publicly on the accusations against him and the Marine Corps has not said what possible charges could be brought. Capt. Taylor, the Pentagon spokesman, said the Marines would wait until they receive the full report July 9 before taking any action.
The reported falsifications occurred after the crashes and therefore "clearly was not a factor in either mishap."
The Marines said from the start of the investigation that they believed the doctoring of records had no bearing on either of the crashes. The first, in April 2000 in Arizona, killed 19 Marines and was blamed on pilot error. The second, last December in North Carolina, killed four and was attributed to a combination of factors,including a hydraulics failure.
All Ospreys have been grounded since the second crash.

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