MQ-9 Reaper crashes into Lake Ontario during training mission

Map of the airspace the 174th Attack Wing uses for drone training missions.

A MQ-9 Reaper crashed 20 miles northeast of Oswego during a routine training mission. It happened around 1 p.m. on Tuesday.

The training mission was being conducted by the Formal Training Unit of the 174th Attack Wing. No one was hurt. The aircraft had no weapons or hazardous materials on board. The plane was on a routine student training session. Four MQ-9 planes fly daily from Fort Drum as part of the program, which formally started in November 2011.

The Reaper has a 66-foot wingspan and weighs eight to ten thousand pounds. It costs between $4 million and $5 million. Specialized search equipment has been brought in, including a helicopter - although the search has been called off for Tuesday evening because of bad weather.

According to the 174th Attack Wing, it took off from Wheeler Sack Army Airfield at Fort Drum and was operating in approved military airspace over Lake Ontario as part of the 174th's mission of training MQ-9 pilots and sensor operators for the Air Force. The Reaper went down in special use airspace 20 miles northeast of the Port of Oswego.

Air Force officials are trying to determine what caused the crash. The investigation should take approximately 30 days. All 174th flying missions are temporarily suspended.

"All of the data that's collected from the airplane, both video and other data, they'll [investigators] will compile all that information...with the goal of determining exactly what happened with the airplane," said Colonel Greg Semmel, Commander of the 174th Attack Wing.

Colonel Semmel maintains the reaper drones are safe. "It's as safe of an airplane as any other airplane that the Air Force flies," said Semmel.

Ed Kinane, with the Syracuse Peace Council, questions their safety. "These very high-tech drones have very high rates - accident rates - much higher than other aircraft," said Kinane. "So that is a concern."

The MQ-9 Reaper is a medium-to-high altitude, long endurance remotely piloted aircraft. The Reaper's primary mission is to act as an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance asset, employing sensors to provide real-time data to commanders and intelligence specialists at all levels.

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