A Triton unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) stationed at the Pt. Mugu Navy station, about 50 miles down the coast from Santa Barbara, made a gear-up crash landing on a runway Wednesday afternoon. One of two MQ-4C Tritons being tested by Mugu’s Unmanned Patrol Squadron 19, the remote-control aircraft was over the Pacific when the engine issues began, and the pilot was able to fly it back to Pt. Mugu. The landing gear then refused to come down, and the Triton made an engine-out belly-skid onto a base airstrip.
The marine surveillance aircraft have been based at Pt. Mugu since November, and this is the first such “mishap” the test vehicles have encountered, said Commander Dave Hecht, who was taking calls while hunkered down in Norfolk, Virginia, waiting for Hurricane Florence to make landfall. He wasn’t able to say how many hours the aircraft or its pilot had, and he stated the craft was still in the testing and evaluation phase by the Navy. According to manufacturer Northrop Grumman, the Triton has a range of 8,200 nautical miles (9,436 miles) can fly 24 hours at a time and as high as 10 miles up, and has a 131-foot wingspan, all powered by a Rolls Royce AE 3007 turbofan engine.