Bell Helicopter Amarillo Military Aircraft Assembly Center played host to the 100th Aircraft Ceremony on Wednesday. The Bell Boeing event recognized the achievements of the vendors, suppliers and workers who built the aircraft.
Lt. Gen. George Trautman III, deputy commandant of Marine Corps for aviation, expressed gratitude for the hard work and dedication of the support teams who help ensure the aircraft are properly maintained and ready for duty.
"It has exceeded all expectations," he said, adding the Osprey is a terrific aircraft to fly, "When you get behind the controls of an Osprey, you are astounded if you are an aviator," he said. Trautman said the Marine Corps plans to replace VMM-263 with a second squadron next month, VMM-162.
"We will keep the same 12 aircraft in place. We will monitor them closely – periodic, recurring inspections to ensure that none of the airplanes need to come out," he said. "We anticipate they could stay anywhere from 12 to 18 months before we have to swap out the airplanes."
Bell Boeing V-22 Program Director Gene Cunningham thanked the employees of Bell and Boeing who build the V-22 and noted that 12 MV-22 Ospreys are now in Iraq performing combat missions with VMM-263
"It is an incredible job and an incredible journey that we have been on. This airplane is doing things that no other airplane has done," Cunningham told the crowd. "This month is also the beginning of a longer journey for us. We hope to sign a multi-year contract with the government to provide not another 100 but another 167 airplanes to the U.S. government."