An MQ-1 Predator unmanned aerial vehicle from the 46th Expeditionary Strike and Reconnissance Squadron at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., sits ready at Balad Air Base, Iraq, before a mission launch July 8. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Jonathan F. Doti)
7/17/2006 - LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Va. (AFPN) -- Pilot error caused an MQ-1L Predator unmanned aerial vehicle to crash March 20 during a reconnaissance mission in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, according to an aircraft accident investigation report released today.
There were no injuries in the incident and the aircraft crashed in an unpopulated area. Damage totaled approximately $4.3 million.
The aircraft is assigned to the 15th Reconnaissance Squadron at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.
At the time of the incident, the pilot was flying the remotely piloted aircraft to a new reconnaissance mission location at an airspeed in excess of 110 knots. As a result of flying at this speed, the aircraft rapidly lost altitude, arriving at the new location approximately 2,000 feet below the required clearance altitude.
The pilot mistakenly concluded this rapid loss of altitude was due to a control problem with the aircraft. In an attempt to correct the problem, the pilot turned off the stability augmentation system pitch and roll axes. This caused the aircraft to go into a steep dive, thereby losing its satellite communication link. Once the link was lost, the pilot was unable to regain control of the aircraft and it subsequently crashed.
Investigators concluded failure to control the remotely piloted aircraft and the resulting crash were a direct result of the pilot's decision to turn off the aircraft's stability augmentation system pitch and roll axes.