WHEN THE MARINES decided to buy a helicopter-airplane hybrid “tiltrotor” called the V-22 Osprey, they saw it as their dream machine. The tiltrotor was the aviation equivalent of finding the Northwest Passage: an aircraft able to take off, land, and hover with the agility of a helicopter yet fly as fast and as far as an airplane. Many predicted it would reshape civilian aviation. The Marines saw it as key to their very survival.
By 2000, the Osprey was nine years late and billions over budget, bedeviled by technological hurdles, business rivalries, and an epic political battle over whether to build it at all. Opponents called it one of the worst boondoggles in Pentagon history. The Marines were eager to put it into service anyway. Then two crashes killed twenty- three Marines. They still refused to abandon the Osprey, even after the Corps’ own proud reputation was tarnished by a national scandal over accusations that a commander had ordered subordinates to lie about the aircraft’s problems.
Based on in-depth research and hundreds of interviews, The Dream Machine recounts the Marines’ quarter-century struggle to get the Osprey into combat. Whittle takes the reader from the halls of the Pentagon and Congress to the war zone of Iraq, from the engineer’s drafting table to the cockpits of the civilian and Marine pilots who risked their lives flying the Osprey—and sometimes lost them. He reveals the methods, motives, and obsessions of those who designed, sold, bought, flew, and fought for the tiltrotor. These stories, including never before published eyewitness accounts of the crashes that made the Osprey notorious, not only chronicle an extraordinary chapter in Marine Corps history, but also provide a fascinating look at a machine that could still revolutionize air travel.
“[A] book that takes off like a novel and flies like a well-sourced historical investigation.” —Gretel C. Kovach , The San Diego Union-Tribune
“What makes The Dream Machine interesting is the light it sheds on Washington's ‘permanent government,’ the lobbyists and consultants and bureaucrats and contractors… One of the lessons of Whittle's book is that no one misses a chance to swim in the giant pool of money and power that is the nation's capital, where the defense industry is the biggest fish of all.” —Matthew Continetti, The Washington Post Book World
“A wonderful combination of personal drama, technological detective story, military history, and . . . a valuable and engrossing book that will be read for many years to come.” —James Fallows, The Atlantic Monthly
“The definitive biography of this embattled bird’s troubled development and initial deployment. Whittle weaves an engrossing tale as much about people as about this complex machine.” —Lee Gaillard, Raleigh News Observer
“Like the helicopter-airplane that tantalized generals, engineers, and pilots for decades, The Dream Machine is also an irresistible hybrid—a cross between The Soul of a New Machine and Black Hawk Down.” —Brad Matsen
“The long, costly, and bloody tale of this hybrid bird, which has taken thirty years . . . to go from blueprints to battlefield. . . . A great yarn for those in love with military gee-whiz technology and aviation.” —Mark Thompson, Washington Monthly
“A gripping tale of the development, near-death, and final redemption of one of the most controversial and fascinating aircraft ever flown.” —Air & Space magazine