• UAV makes Wisconsin aviation history

    Posted on July 21st, 2009 John Dorcey No comments

    The controller said, “Omaha zero-eight, you are cleared to land runway one eight.” At 0946 local, a Predator B aircraft landed at Wittman Regional Airport (KOSH). The landing is historic in that the Predator B aircraft is an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) and UAV’s have never operated from a general aviation airport. The aircraft departed from Grand Forks AFB, North Dakota at 0704 and flew direct to Oshkosh, Wisconsin. The landing was controlled by a pilot operating from a mobile ground control station (GCS) located on Wittman Airport.

    Predator B shuts down upon arrival at KOSH

    The Predator B resembles several modern day aircraft with its mid-wing, tricycle gear, and V-tail. The aircraft is powered by a Honeywell TPE-331-10T turboprop engine driving a McCauley pusher propeller. Output of this version of the popular engine is 940 shaft horsepower at takeoff.

    Basic aircraft specifications hint at its capabilities. The aircraft is 36.2 feet in length, stands at a maximum height of 11.8 feet, and has a wingspan of 66 feet. The aircraft has an empty weight of  about 4,900 pounds, a maximum takeoff weight of 10,500 pounds, and a maximum fuel load of 3,775 pounds. The aircraft can operate at altitudes above 45,000 feet, cruises at 220 knots, and has an endurance of nearly 30 hours.

    WAHF members Jim Martin (left) and Robert Kunkel inspect the Predator B

    The Predator B is manufactured by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems. This airframe is one of 5 operated by US Customs and Border Protection (CPB). The CPB first began using the Predator B in October, 2005. The agency operates 3 aircraft from Libby Army Airfield in Sierra Vista, Arizona and 2 from Grand Forks.

    The Predator B and mobile GCS will be joined by other CPB aircraft displayed during EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2009. Look for it near the federal pavilion.