Remotely Piloted Aircraft, Safer Every Day

Accident rates for Air Force remotely piloted aircraft are decreasing despite the steep escalation in RPA flight hours, said Air Force safety officials in a Sept. 11 release. These RPAs include the MQ-1 Predator, MQ-9 Reaper, and RQ-4 Global Hawk. “The MQ-1 was the second most flown airframe last year, second only to the C-17,” said Lt. Col. Maggie Howard, RPA branch chief with the Air Force Safety Center at Kirtland AFB, N.M. Between Fiscal 2007 and Fiscal 2011, MQ-1 flying hours “increased from approximately 79,000 to 239,000—a 200 percent increase,” she added. Despite that spike, “RPA safety rates are improving over time due to design and system re-engineering,” said Ken Pascoe, AFSC systems safety engineer. Last year, Air Force RPAs suffered 13 Class A mishaps, averaging 3.8 serious accidents per 100,000 flight hours, according to the release. That rate is “currently lower” than the F-16’s frequency of serious accidents, noted AFSC operations analyst Greg Grigson. (Kirtland report by Darlene Cowsert)