Accident Rates: Predator vs. GA
Air Force Predators last year managed an accident rate per 100,000 hours that nearly matched GA's rate for the same period, according to The Los Angeles Times. The newspaper Wednesday published an article that listed the Air Force Predator's accident rate at 7.5 per 100,000 flight hours in 2009. The rate for general aviation during the same period was 7.2, up from 6.86 in 2008. The military said the Predator's rate is "comparable to that of the F-16 at the same stage" and "just less than the 8.2 rate for small, single-engine private planes," according to the article. And the statistics may share at least one more similarity.
Like general aviation accidents, an Air Force study determined in 2007 that a majority of Predator crashes involved human error. The study set the number of human-error-related accidents at 80% for the Predator. According to retired Rear Admiral Thomas J. Cassidy Jr., president of the aircraft systems group at General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, which builds Predators, the unmanned aircraft are often lost for familiar reasons. "Some run into bad weather. Some, people do stupid things with them. Sometimes, they just run them out of gas," he told the Times. While the crash of each drone costs between $3.7 million and $5 million, short of crashing one into its control center, drone accidents never cost the lives of their pilots. The Air Force expects to fly its drones (not just the Predator) through about 300,000 hours of service this year.
AVweb's interview with UAV expert Jeff Kappenman.