System Malfunctions Led to Reaper Crash

An MQ-9 Reaper assigned to the New York Air National Guard’s 174th Attack Wing in Syracuse crashed into Lake Ontario in New York on Nov. 12, 2013, following a “series of system malfunctions,” according to a July 1 release. The Accident Investigation Board found “by clear and convincing evidence” that the mishap aircraft’s global positioning system and inertial navigation system failed “in conjunction with a transfer of invalid attitude data” to the mishap aircraft’s autopilot system. “Without valid data, the [Reaper] could not discern its attitude and became uncontrollable,” states the executive summary of the AIB report. A mission control element crew from Hancock Field ANGB, N.Y., initiated “the appropriate emergency checklist” and informed the launch recovery element aircrew of the situation, states the July 1 release. However, the Reaper lost its link with the crew as it was in the process of turning the aircraft around. Consequently, the aircraft “began to fly its pre-programmed contingency return-to-base flightpath on its own,” allowing it to safely avoid populated areas, states the release. The MQ-9 became inverted after it attempted an autopilot right turn, resulting in “an unrecoverable flat spin,” states the release. The aircraft, which was valued at $10.6 million, was destroyed on impact.