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Pentagon to lift Osprey flight ban after fatal Air Force crash

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon will lift the ban on flights by the grounded V-22 Osprey next week, U.S. officials told The Associated Press on Friday, following a high-level meeting where Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin endorsed the military services’ plans for a safe and measured return to operations.

The officials said that Naval Air Systems Command, which grounded the controversial tilt-rotor aircraft about three months ago, will lift it and allow the services to begin implementing their plans to get the Osprey back into the air. Austin met with the top service leaders, including for the Navy and Air Force, on Friday morning, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss plans not yet made public.

The Osprey has been grounded for almost three months following a Nov. 29 Air Force Special Operations Command crash in Japan that killed eight service members. The Japan incident and an earlier August Osprey crash in Australia that killed three Marines are both still under investigation. The Air Force has said that it has identified what failed in the Japan crash, even though it does not know yet why it failed.

The decision to end the flight ban is up to Naval Air Systems Command, but Austin had asked for an informational briefing on the matter because of the significant safety concerns and the fact that three of the services and a critical ally are involved in the program. While Austin does not have approval authority in the return to flight process, U.S. officials said his endorsement of the services’ plan was considered a key step.

In the months since, the services have worked on plans to mitigate the known material failure by conducting additional safety checks and establishing a new, more conservative approach to how the Osprey is operated.

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