Pilot Distracted by Checklist Caused MQ-9 Crash

Preoccupation with checklist procedures and a failure to correctly respond to stall warnings led to the crash of an MQ-9A Reaper during a training flight at the Nevada Test and Training Range on June 7, 2016. Just before the accident, a crew from the 26th Weapons Squadron at Nellis AFB, Nev., had received control of the RPA from the Launch and Recovery Element, 432nd Wing, Creech AFB, Nev. The pilot taking control of the Reaper mistook a climb to a preprogrammed altitude for a system malfunction. He switched to landing configuration, which also disables stall protection, in order to turn off the autopilot and take manual control of the aircraft. When the aircraft stalled a moment later, the pilot was “preoccupied with the handover checklist” and failed to recognize the display warnings. When his sensor operator alerted him to the stall, he increased power, causing the aircraft to spiral toward the ground and crash. The MQ-9A was destroyed at a cost of $11 million. The pilot had 767 MQ-9A flight hours and 451 hours of MQ-9A instructor flying time, according to the accident investigation board report. (Read the full report; Caution, large-sized file.)