Human Error Doomed Reaper

A series of errors led to the crash of an MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft last December during a combat training mission at the Nevada Test and Training Range, announced Air Combat Command on Tuesday. Preflight, contract technicians improperly configured throttle-related settings in the ground control station, states ACC’s release, which cites the findings of the command’s abbreviated accident investigation board report released on April 9. The pilot conducting the preflight inspection—who was not the pilot who flew the Reaper during the mission—did not execute all parts of the checklist and thus did not notice this, according to the release. During the mission, as the pilot tried to change the Reaper’s altitude by adjusting the throttle, “the misconfigured throttle commanded the aircraft engine to produce reverse thrust” that led to a stall that ultimately resulted in the crash, states the release. The MQ-9 and crew were assigned to the 26th Weapons Squadron at Nellis AFB, Nev. In addition to the Reaper, the Air Force lost one inert bomb, one Hellfire training missile, a mission kit, and one missile rail in the crash. The loss of the MQ-9 and the other items is valued at some $9.6 million.