Thursday afternoon the Air Force released the final report on the B-2 crash from last February, it included never-before-seen video of the takeoffs of four B-2’s headed home to their base in Missouri after a deployment to Guam.
The Air Force on Thursday said the first crash of a B-2 stealth bomber was caused by moisture in sensors and estimated the loss of the aircraft at $1.4 billion.
The crash probably could have been avoided if knowledge of a technique to evaporate the moisture had been disseminated throughout the B-2 program, said Maj. Gen. Floyd L. Carpenter, who headed an accident investigation board.
The “Spirit of Kansas” abruptly pitched up, rolled and yawed to the left Feb. 23 before plunging to the ground at Andersen Air Force Base on the island of Guam. Both pilots ejected safely just after the left wing made contact with the ground in the first crash since the maiden B-2 flights nearly 20 years ago.
“It was just by the grace of God that they were safe, and the good (ejection) system,” Carpenter said.
Water distorted preflight readings in three of the plane’s 24 sensors, making the aircraft’s control computer force the B-2 to pitch up on takeoff, resulting in a stall and subsequent crash.
The bomber had been returning to Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, where the 21-plane fleet is based. The Air Force grounded the B-2s and resumed flying them in late April.
Carpenter said procedures and policies are now in place to guard against similar crashes.
“It’s fortunate the crew was able to safely eject. It’s unfortunate, however, that we lost one of our nation’s penetrating bombers,” said Gen. Carrol H. Chandler, commander of Pacific Air Forces.
(with wire reports)
This video is from The Associated Press, broadcast June 6, 2008.