An MQ-1B Predator crashed shortly after takeoff in 2017 when an electrical failure caused its left tail to get stuck and sent it into an uncontrollable dive, according to an accident investigation board report released Wednesday.
The Predator crashed in a field after taking off from Incirlik Air Base in Turkey on Aug. 17, 2017, the Air Force said at the time.
The launch and recovery crew that controlled the Predator during takeoff handed off control to the mishap crew without any signs that anything was wrong, the report said. But 27 seconds after the handover, the Predator pitched down on its own, and the mishap crew lost their video feed.
The launch and recovery crew still had a video link, and saw the Predator enter a rolling dive until it hit the ground. That crew tried to regain control, but was unable to make a connection.
The Predator was from the 432nd Wing at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, and was being operated by an air crew from the 432nd Air Expeditionary Wing, the report said. The majority of the drone was destroyed by a fire at the impact site, and the loss of the aircraft and clean-up of the area cost almost $5.4 million.
General Atomics, the primary contractor on the Predator, analyzed the cockpit data and found an electrical cable had failed, resulting in a loss of power to the left tail flight control surface. This moved the left tail into the maximum trailing-edge-down deflection and started its fatal dive.
Stephen Losey is the air warfare reporter for Defense News. He previously covered leadership and personnel issues at Air Force Times, and the Pentagon, special operations and air warfare at Military.com. He has traveled to the Middle East to cover U.S. Air Force operations.