Sometimes an investment becomes so high that it's virtually impossible to admit failure and bail out. More and more money is poured in with the expectation that "now it will finally pay off."
Except it doesn't. It becomes the investment that keeps on taking. This is what's happening with the Marine Corps' $40 billion-and-counting MV-22 Osprey program.
If this so-called revolutionary tilt-rotor aircraft, designed to take off and land like a helicopter and fly like an airplane, were being developed in the private sector stockholders would have tossed it out billions of dollars ago.
Unfortunately, taxpayers don't have the clout of stockholders. But with the latest Osprey failure this week - a test flight that crashed and killed four Marines in forested North Carolina near Jacksonville - the time is ripe for the public to ask how much more good money after bad will the government pour into this failed and dangerous project.
This week's tragedy wasn't the first. If the Osprey was a person, it'd be a serial killer. Last April, 19 Marines died in an Osprey crash in Tucson, Ariz. It was blamed on pilot error, indicating there could be nothing intrinsically wrong with the Osprey. That's why it was back in the air this week.
We doubt Marine commandant Gen. James L. Jones will get away with the "pilot error" gambit again. A prototype MV-22 crashed on its maiden flight in Delaware in 1991 and in 1992 another Osprey prototype crashed near Quantico, Va., killing seven.
But despite this doleful history, the Marine brass was poised before Tuesday's crash to get the green light from the Pentagon to begin full-scale production of the Osprey. Of course, that's been put on hold for now, but Gen. Jones still hopes the program will only be delayed, not scrapped.
How many more crashes and deaths will it take before the brass gives up on the Osprey? The truth is they won't, they've got too much invested in it. So it will be up to Congress to decide.
Unless there is some very convincing evidence to the contrary presented at congressional hearings, the time has come to cancel the Osprey.