Air Force Reaper Drone Crashes into Lake Ontario

** MQ-9 Reaper** U.S. Air Force

Confidence in the ability of unmanned aircraft to integrate into U.S. airspace took another hit on Tuesday when an Air Force MQ-9 Reaper drone crashed on a training flight.

Attached to the 174th Attack Wing of the New York Air National Guard, the aircraft suffered failure of its datalink control, and crashed into Lake Ontario about 12 miles from the shore and 20 miles from the port of Oswego. The Air Force has temporarily suspended Reaper training flights as a result of the accident.

Col. Greg Semmell, commander of the training unit based at Fort Drum, said there is video surveillance footage of the crash that should help in the accident investigation. He said, “As we come up with the results of what happened with the airplane, we’ll us that to make it even safer before we proceed.” Col. Semmell also reported that at no time did the accident MQ-9 depart approved military airspace, despite the fact it was operating as high as 18,000 feet as part of the training mission.

The crash occurred early in the afternoon, approximately two hours into the flight, which included a second MQ-9 as part of the syllabus. The accompanying Reaper landed safely back at Fort Drum. Coast Guard search efforts to locate the wreckage were suspended later that day when bad weather settled into the area, the military said.

The Reaper is a substantial aircraft, powered by a 950 shp turboprop and capable of carrying thousands of pounds of bombs and missiles. The one that crashed was unarmed.

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Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

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