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AF: Wind gusts, failed turbocharger brought down Predator

Jan. 6, 2014 - 02:38PM   |  
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Wind gusts and a turbocharger failure brought down an MQ-1B Predator as it attempted to land in June at Jalalabad Air Base, Afghanistan.

The Predator, deployed from the 432d Wing at Creech Air Force Base, Nev., was flying a classified surveillance mission when the crew noticed signs of a possible turbocharger failure, including a decrease in altitude and low airflow into the engine. At about eight hours into the mission, the crew completed a checklist and told air traffic control that the drone was unable to maintain altitude.

A launch and recovery element crew took control of the aircraft and attempted to land. The crew had to abandon the first approach due to high wind gusts. The aircraft was unable to climb and crashed about 800 feet beyond the runway.

The aircraft and one AGM-114 Hellfire missile were destroyed at a loss of about $4.5 million.

An Air Force Accident Investigation Board found the combination of the turbocharger’s mechanical failure and the wind gusts caused the crash, along with insufficient guidance and crew decisions during the flight.

“The board president found by a preponderance of evidence that insufficient technical guidance, operational acceptance of aircraft weight-wavers, and the decision to go-around substantially contributed to the mishap,” the Air Force said in a release.

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