Drone crash closes NM national monument

ALAMOGORDO, N.M. (KRQE) – New Mexico’s most popular National Park Service attraction for tourists, White Sands National Monument, remains closed after a large military drone crashed Friday morning on monument property.

Holloman AFB officials say a supersonic QF-4 drone, similar to the one in the photo, crashed during a training mission at 9:08 a.m.

The popular monument was closed in advance of the test mission and will now remain closed until further notice.

Base officials say no one was injured and there is no threat to the public.

The aircraft is a full-sized F-4 Phantom fighter bomber that was first flown in the 1960s as a manned combat aircraft.

Those now at Holloman AFB can either be operated by remote control from the ground without a pilot on board, or with a safety pilot riding in the aircraft.

Holloman officials say it can realistically simulate enemy aircraft maneuvers and provides a full-scale target for air-to-air weapons system evaluation, development and testing.

As a safety precaution, a chase plane trails the drone during critical periods of flight.

In July 2011, a manned version crashed near Hope, N.M. In that crash, the pilot ejected and was not hurt.

Unmanned QF-4 crashes were reported by Holloman AFB in August 2006 and September 2004.

The Air Force says the QF-4 is being replaced by the QF-16, a supersonic reusable full-scale aerial target modified from an F-16 Fighting Falcon.

The accident happened off of runway 22, about five miles west of Holloman Air Force Base and investigators are working to determine the cause.

The National Park Service says more than 447,000 people visited White Sands National Monument in 2012, making it the most visited NPS site in New Mexico.

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