Pilot Errors Caused Reaper Crash

A pilot’s error during a “flame-out” training landing approach caused an MQ-9 Reaper to crash in the US Central Command area of operations, the Air Force announced Thursday. On Feb. 20, 2016, an MQ-9, operated by the 62nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance squadron in Afghanistan, was returning from a combat support mission when it conducted a simulated flame-out training approach. A flame out landing is an attempt to land after the flame in the aircraft engine’s combustion chamber goes out, which is usually caused by factors such as a lack of fuel or oxygen. The pilot set the Reaper’s power below the recommended setting for the practice approach, and failed to maintain altitude and approach path awareness, Air Combat Command found in an Accident Investigation Board report. This caused the Reaper to approach at a steeper descent path and a “low energy state.” The pilot could not recover the aircraft and it crashed short of the runway. The Reaper, from the 432nd Wing at Creech AFB, Nev., was destroyed at a loss of $12.3 million, according to ACC.