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Military aircraft test sky over Gunnison

Brief by Allen Best

Military – October 2006 – Colorado Central Magazine

The V-22 Osprey is a hybrid between a helicopter and a fixed-wing airplane. It goes up and down like a helicopter, but then can scoot fast like a plane. And it has been doing all three in the Gunnison-Crested Butte area since early August.

The U.S. military wanted to test the Osprey, a $70 million aircraft, at a high-elevation airport with a long runway. Gunnison’s airport is at an elevation of 7,700 feet, lower than the airports in Leadville and Telluride, but it also has a long runway of 9,400 feet long. As well, it has a large hangar, and the safety characteristics that the testers wanted, officials told the Crested Butte News.

Major Scott Trail, one of the test pilots, says most people assume the Osprey will be used in Afghanistan, “but we can’t speak for that.” The lead engineer, Trevor Strand, said only that the planes are designed for “pretty much anywhere there are mountains.”