An MQ-1B Predator sits on the flightline at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. Investigators could not trace the cause of an October drone crash over New Mexico, a new report says. (Senior Airman Anthony Sanchelli / Air Force)
Air Force investigators could not trace what caused an MQ-1B Predator crash in October, when the drone dropped out of the sky over New Mexico and crashed while in an emergency holding pattern.
The Air Force Accident Investigation Board report on the Oct. 30 mishap near Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, states that controllers experienced a “complete signal loss” while preparing to land after flying a training mission for about 6.5 hours. The crew got only intermittent telemetry updates, prompting the pilot to put the aircraft in a “lost link” preset orbit while crews went through emergency checklists.
While in this holding pattern, the Predator suddenly pitched over and rapidly descended, crashing into the ground at about 7:37 p.m.
The investigation found that the cause of the crash was the sudden pitch over, which resulted “in a departure from controlled flight.”
“However, the source of the command that resulted in the symmetric pitch over could not be determined,” the report states, explaining that the loss of the telemetry signal contributed to the crash.
During the flight, multiple controllers were working in shifts.
The total loss is assessed to be about $4.5 million. There was no damage to government or civilian property, and no injuries on the ground.