Skip to comments.Drone crashes mount at civilian airports
Posted on 11/30/2012 11:02:45 PM PST by Seizethecarp
The U.S. Air Force drone, on a classified spy mission over the Indian Ocean, was destined for disaster from the start.
An inexperienced military contractor in shorts and a T-shirt, flying by remote control from a trailer at Seychelles International Airport, committed blunder after blunder in six minutes on April 4.
He sent the unarmed MQ-9 Reaper drone off without permission from the control tower. A minute later, he yanked the wrong lever at his console, killing the engine without realizing why.
As he tried to make an emergency landing, he forgot to put down the wheels. The $8.9 million aircraft belly-flopped on the runway, bounced and plunged into the tropical waters at the airports edge, according to a previously undisclosed Air Force accident investigation report.
The drone crashed at a civilian airport that serves a half-million passengers a year, most of them sun-seeking tourists. No one was hurt, but it was the second Reaper accident in five months under eerily similar circumstances.
I will be blunt here. I said, I cant believe this is happening again, an Air Force official at the scene told investigators afterward. He added: You go, How stupid are you?
The April wreck was the latest in a rash of U.S. military drone crashes at overseas civilian airports in the past two years. The accidents reinforce concerns about the risks of flying the robot aircraft outside war zones, including in the United States.
(Excerpt) Read more at washingtonpost.com ...
It was probably ‘classified’ afterwards in an attempt to cover it up. This is an 0bama tactic and was implemented in the aftermath of Benghazi. Has anyone interviewed those 30 something survivors yet? Are they dead or ‘sworn to secrecy’ or what? Huh, 0bamatollah?..
Sounds like the average RC controlled plane hobbyist would be at least as good a drone pilot. And why airports at all, why not some deserted road?
Drone pilots don’t need to be actual pilots.
For a long time, unlike the other services, the Air Force tried to enforce the insane rule that only flight ready pilots could sit at the desk and fly a drone, if you had a twisted ankle, then you were pulled, it was insane and expensive, it doesn’t take an officer to sit at a computer and fly drones.
I know a bunch of pilots. Civilian airline, AF fighter, Navy attack, presidential helo, build your own, Nam huey, glider for hire, acrobat, test, and so on. They are all are strange. They’re obsessive, but in a very controlled way — obsessively obsessive. I guess it comes from all the detailed procedures. Check this, check that, etc. You can see the procedures scrolling past their eyes. Another thing strange about them is you generally can’t rattle them. The only crazy one was the Navy attack pilot — he drank like an idiot on steroids — a fifth on a quiet night, but he died of old age.
Point is, when you have to fly a big tank of gas over people’s heads, you should have a pilot.
‘I seem to recall that from the beginning, drone pilots were required to be real pilots...but then that requirement was dropped to save training costs.’
Actually, being a “real pilot” doesn’t help that much in flying a model aircraft. (which is essentially what these things are)
Until a few of them crash....
Drone crash at SEZ. Snooze. Wake me up when one crashes at BOS.
The seat of the pants factor is obviously missing in the remote control mode. But also the computer watching over the controls should require certain common sense things like don’t kill the engine if you’re climbing, and if you’re headed for a belly flop put the wheels down in time, with manual exceptions having to hit an ESCAPE button or something similar to override.
Well, a supposedly classified mission. Somehow you wouldn’t want a flight of that kind to get bungled so badly it might not even come back.
The article seems to be focused on the Air Force, not the Army and and Navy.
The U.S. Army has used a combination of NCOs and Warrant Officers to operate its larger UAVs, and that program has been a success. But senior U.S. Air Force commanders have publicly rejected growing calls from air force commanders that NCOs be used as UAV operators. Meanwhile, the U.S. Air Force struggles to train enough UAV operators a year, while the U.S. Army has no problem finding and training many more than the air force needs. Most of the army operators use the small (two kg/4.5 pound) Raven UAV, which provides platoons, companies and vehicle convoys with aerial reconnaissance.
Interestingly, UAV operators each spend about 1,200 hours a year controlling UAVs in the air, versus 450 hours for army helicopter pilots and even less for air force pilots in the combat zone. Most army UAV operators are enlisted troops, while all air force ones are officers. The Raven training only lasts 80 hours, but this tiny UAV was designed for ease of use. It takes about five times longer to train operators for larger UAVs like Shadow, Predator and Reaper. The air force points out that the largest UAVs, like the Global Hawk, can cross oceans, and requires a high degree of training and skill. But it’s much more dangerous to fly a Raven within rifle range of enemy troops, and keep the little bird alive long enough to get the video feed needed to win the battle. Many of these army Raven operators are very, very good, mainly because they have hundreds of hours experience operating their UAVs while under fire. Few air force UAV drivers can claim this kind of experience.
There are other problems. The U.S. Department of Defense has been putting pressure on the air force to automate their UAV operations. The air force initially responded with complaints that they were overloaded. But then it became widely known that, while army UAVs have software that enables automatic take-off and landing, similar air force UAVs do not, and this has led to higher UAV losses for the air force. At the same time, the navy, and the British, are developing flight control software that allows pilots to control two or more UAVs while flying their own aircraft. In effect, these pilots would fly into combat with two or more UAVs under their control. The U.S. Air Force is under a lot of pressure to make this happen, so one team of UAV operators can control two or more aircraft.
It’s not that the air force can’t make this happen, it’s just that there’s a lot of resistance in the air force to replacing pilots with a lot of UAVs. Actually, there’s not much at stake in this dispute, other than possibly settling the decades old controversy over whether all pilots must be officers. The other services save a lot of money by using NCOs as UAV controllers. Sergeants and Petty Officers are paid less, and they don’t get flight pay. No one has been able to demonstrate any better performance on the part of the air force pilots who operate UAVs. In the long run, the enlisted UAV “pilots” will probably be superior, because they are making a career of this sort of thing.
The above post (13) is fron a strategypage article, not from me.
Of course some 13 yr old hacker across the street couldn’t have gotten into the flight program......?...
BTW..I just got a copy of "The Bourne Legacy" and there is a fantastic sequence involving drones, NRO sat-tracked implants, High powered sniper rifles and of all things..wolves. I think you would like it.
Agree.... and Pilots are more likely to know the rules of the airport, air space rules, and how to respond to the variables if weather, terrain, wind speed .....
At over $8 mill a pop, they are not saving much. $8 mil will pay for the difference between the cost of using pilots vs non pilots real quick.
Would be interesting to know the details. Race, gender, gender preference, education level ........ of the drone operator who crashed it.
The contractors they hire are pilots. The problem is that the Predator flight control system sucks. A couple of my friends flew predators and they say the flight control system feels like a throwback to MS Flightsim 95.