Navy Buries News of Second X-47B Drone Carrier Landing Flub

Two out of four landing attempts have failed.

Last week the Navy pumped out a bunch of press releases and miles of video to celebrate the first landing of an unmanned aircraft, the X-47B, on a carrier.

The Navy planned another landing of the X-47B this Monday on the USS George H.W. Bush, but the service was silent on the results of that test. No hype, no press releases and no video on either the main Navy public website or the Naval Air Systems Command Web page.

I sent an email to NAVAIR mid-day Tuesday, received no reply, and then followed up Wednesday morning with a phone call. This resulted in NAVAIR sending me a release not posted on its website, which said the planned landing on the Bush this Monday was scrubbed due to “a minor test instrumentation issue” and the drone “returned to NAS Patuxent River, where it safely landed.”

I’m not the only reporter log-rolled by the Navy on this, based on the fact that the few stories posted on the aborted landing appeared a full day after the failed Monday test.

I know bad news does not have the same priority as good news, but in this case the Navy should have quickly and publicly acknowledged the failed landing -- the second flub out of four attempts.