Wednesday, September 14, 2011
|remote-controlled RQ-Shadow tactical aircraft|
A military cargo plane from the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station was damaged when an unmanned drone crashed into it during an Afghanistan mission last month, officials have confirmed.
The C-130 Hercules transport plane, assigned to the 914th Airlift Wing of the Air Force, had to make an emergency landing after it was struck by the drone on Aug. 15, authorities said.
Crew members -- including at least two people from the 107th Airlift Wing of the New York Air National Guard, according to sources familiar with the incident -- were unhurt.
"That's very rare ... I've never heard of that happening before," said Keith J. Mackey, an aviation safety consultant. "Without a doubt, the crew is lucky that no one was hurt. If the drone had crashed into the cockpit and disabled the crew, it could have brought the [cargo] plane down."
The incident is likely to fuel further debate about the military's increased use of remote-controlled drones in the Middle East and whether drones are safe in American airspace, Mackey said.
Military officials declined to say Friday whether any men or women based in Niagara Falls were aboard, but three sources with knowledge of the incident said members of the 107th -- which is based in the Falls -- were on the plane.