If your MV-22 landing gear fails to deploy, there’s always…mattresses

By Faye Higbee

Marines are known for their ability to “Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome.” That’s pretty evident in a story printed by WTKR out of Hampton Roads and Northeast Virginia: a US Marine Crew safely landed their MV-22 Osprey on a landing pad full of mattresses when their landing gear failed to deploy.

Capt Paul Keller landed his MV-22 Osprey perfectly on a pile of mattresses after the landing gear seized up. October 9, 2015 Southwest Asia. Photo via WTKR

If it isn’t one thing it’s another

Every good Marine seems to know Murphy’s Law well: ‘anything that can go wrong will.’ So they prepare for every eventuality no matter how implausible it might be.  In the case of pilot Captain Paul Keller and his crew of  an MV-22 Osprey attached to the  Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 165, things got a little dicey when the landing gear of their Osprey seized up.

“We got the initial indication in Iraq, but we had enough gas to make it back here and troubleshoot the problem. Inside our emergency procedures checklist, there are certain steps you run through and we ran through all of them, but the gear were still stuck up…We tried some further troubleshooting steps that the crew and the Quality Assurance shop had thought of while we were in a holding pattern around the airfield. By that point, it became apparent that the gear weren’t going to come down.” Capt Keller

The Marines have a plan for everything, and for this one they have a “landing pad” – heavy on the pad part. It’s five piles of mattresses, tied down and ready to give the Osprey a soft landing so that it isn’t damaged. Even if this kind of thing is extremely rare, they were ready. And they carry their emergency landing pad with them wherever they go, just to make sure.


They actually train for this stuff- an Osprey hovers over piles of mattresses…practice run- US Marine photo

Headed in

So the crew headed their aircraft toward the emergency landing pad. Of course landing on that thing is not easy. Keller had to rely on the exactness of his crew chief, Cpl Derek Levi, in order keep from missing the mattresses at the end of the runway.

As Capt Keller kept the Osprey hovering 3 feet off the ground, Cpl Levi called in the numbers. Right two feet, forward one foot…in a situation where inches count. All the training paid off. The Osprey landed perfectly, and was not damaged in the process. It was repaired and flew again not long after.

There is a reason why the Marines say they are the “Few, The Proud” – the smallest branch of the United States Military, they just do what they have to do. And if that means train and practice  for an emergency landing on an pile of mattresses… then Oohra!