Friday, September 3, 2010

Reaper crashes during test flight

An MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft crashed Tuesday about one mile north of El Mirage Airfield, Calif., the service said Wednesday.

The 36-foot-long plane came down in a “sparsely populated” area and no one was injured on the ground, an Air Force release said. A board of officers is investigating what led the accident.

The Reaper had been flying a test mission after taking off from Gray Butte Airfield, about five miles east of El Mirage. Both airfields are about 15 miles south of Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.

The aircraft was assigned to the Aeronautical Systems Center headquartered at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

Since the service began flying MQ-9s in 2004, at least eight of the planes have crashed, according to the Air Force Safety Center. The planes, equipped with sensors, cost about $13 million each. Most of the 50 Reapers not required for stateside training or testing are deployed to fly missions over Afghanistan and Iraq.

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