A propeller malfunction on an MQ-1 Predator remotely piloted aircraft, coupled with operator error, led to the platform’s crash last October in Afghanistan, announced Air Combat Command officials. The Predator was about 10 hours into a surveillance mission out of Jalalabad Air Base on Oct. 26, 2012, when it developed a problem with its variable pitch propeller, according to ACC’s March 19 release that cites the newly released findings of the command’s abbreviated accident investigation board report. The remote pilot controlling the MQ-1 from Creech AFB, Nev., attempted to resolve the problem by adjusting the propeller’s pitch, but this led to the loss of aircraft thrust, preventing its return to base, so the pilot had to bring it down in a non-residential area, states the release. “The cause of the mishap was a combination of mechanical failure of the propeller motor and unnecessary movements of the propeller pitch control lever by the mishap pilot,” states the release. The loss of the Predator and the one Hellfire air-to-ground missile it was carrying is valued at some $4.6 million, states the release. (AIB report; caution, large-sized file.)
When the Air Force sets a new program baseline for the B-52 re-engining this fall, there will be “some” cost increase, because the project wasn't previously fully funded, and the Air Force has a better handle on actual supplier costs and knowledge from ground testing, program officials said.