Starter-Generator Failure Caused Reaper Crash

A starter-generator failure caused the crash of an MQ-9A Reaper in February in the US Africa Command area of operations, according to an abbreviated aircraft accident investigation board report released Aug. 19. The remotely piloted aircraft belonged to the 432nd Wing at Creech AFB, Nev., but was assigned to the 33rd Expeditionary Special Operations Squadron, 435th Air Expeditionary Wing, when it crashed. It took off at 5:30 a.m. Zulu on Feb. 4 and flew normally for about three hours before the generator exhaust fan began to malfunction and the starter-generator failed, according to the report. The crew tried to fly the aircraft back to base and turned off equipment to maximize battery life, but the starter-generator failed again around 9:15 a.m. and could not be restarted. Instead, they programmed the Reaper to return to base. A second crew took control of the RPA around 10:30 a.m. and saw the battery power was very low, according to the report. The crew put the Reaper in a holding pattern, but the battery power was so low the aircraft could have become unstable, so the Joint Forces Air Component commander ordered the crew to fly it into international waters. This is the third time a failed starter-generator caused a Reaper to crash since December 2014. The first two happened just one day apart, the first on Dec. 11, 2014, and the second on Dec. 12, 2014.