Echoing a U.S. investigative report, the Defense Ministry said human error caused a fatal crash in Morocco of an MV-22 Osprey, the transport aircraft that has raised safety concerns in Okinawa Prefecture.
The ministry, like the United States, blamed a mistake made by the co-pilot for the crash in April, which killed two crew members and injured two others.
A ministry expert panel analyzed a U.S. Marine Corps investigation and agreed with the conclusion that no mechanical or safety problems were evident, sources said.
Protest rallies have been held in many parts of Japan because of strong concerns about the safety of the Osprey, which the U.S. military plans to deploy at the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa Prefecture from early October.
Twelve Ospreys were offloaded at the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Yamaguchi Prefecture on July 23.
A U.S. investigation report on a crash of an Air Force Osprey in Florida in June, which injured five crew members, is expected by the end of August. The Japanese government said it will analyze that report before making a final judgment about the safety of Ospreys.
The Defense Ministry is expected to release the results of its panel’s investigation into the crash in Morocco on Aug. 28 after reporting them to Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda.
Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto will visit Okinawa and Yamaguchi prefectures on Aug. 29 and 30 to explain the ministry’s findings.
The Osprey is a tilt-rotor aircraft that can take off and land vertically like a helicopter and fly like an airplane after rotating its props forward.
Members of the Defense Ministry panel received detailed explanations from U.S. Defense Department officials about the investigation report on the crash in Morocco on Aug. 15.
The members analyzed the report from the viewpoints of aviation engineering as well as operations of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces.
The panel concluded that the Osprey lost control while hovering with the wind at its back. It said the inexperienced co-pilot tried to switch to a fixed-wing mode with an inappropriate operation.
The conclusion was the same as that of the U.S. investigation report.
The panel also said the accident was partly caused by an operation unsuitable under weather conditions at the time.
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