Home Air Botched oil change led to $14.12M Reaper crash over Afghanistan in 2020

Botched oil change led to $14.12M Reaper crash over Afghanistan in 2020

MQ-9 in Kuwait
Illustration: USAF MQ-9 undergoing an engine test prior to ISR operations at Ali Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait, July 23, 2019. Photo: US Air Force

A rushed replacement of an oil line and associated clamps led to the crash of a US Air Force MQ-9A Reaper unmanned aerial system in an undisclosed location in Afghanistan on October 28, 2020.

A report released by the US Air Combat Command determined that an oil leak following the procedure caused engine failure and ultimately the crash of the MQ-9A.

At the time of the incident, the 482d Attack Squadron mission control element, located at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, was in control of the aircraft.

The engine failed due to oil starvation before the aircraft could return to the launch and recovery element, the report said. The mission control element identified an ad hoc landing site, but, in an effort to avoid a possible structure impact, the aircraft crashed into a ridge.

The AAIB determined the cause of the accident was an oil leak resulting in the oil level dropping from 100 percent to zero percent.

It was also determined the primary maintenance technician’s failure to follow the relevant technical order while replacing an oil line and associated clamps, and the maintenance flight chief’s direction to disregard the technical order in an effort to expedite a repair after the previous sortie contributed to the mishap.

The air force said the crash resulted in approximately $14.12 million in damages to government property. The crash caused no injuries, fatalities or damage to civilian property.