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B-2 Crash Report

509th Bomb Wing

The Associated Press reports that the Air Force investigation has determined that Moisture caused $1.4 billion bomber crash

HICKAM AIR FORCE BASE, Hawaii (AP) — The Air Force 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, Maj. Gen. Floyd L. Carpenter, who headed an accident investigation board, said Thursday.

The Spirit of Kansas abruptly pitched up, rolled and yawed to the left February 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; it was 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.

Carpenter said the pilots and crew followed procedures and “the aircraft actually performed as it was designed. In other words, all the systems were functioning normally.”

However, a technique learned by some two years ago that had gone widely unknown and unadopted probably would have prevented the crash, Carpenter said. The technique essentially heats the sensors and evaporates any moisture before data calibrations.

Danger Room has the video. The second B-2 taking off is the crash film.

All B-2 Spirits are assigned to the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, and are under the Eighth Air Force, which is under Air Combat Command, who you will remember from my tirade about the abysmal performance of the 5th Bomb Wing.

What is being said is that this aircraft self-destructs at a cost of $1.4 billion if it is subjected to DEW‽ They are also saying that the Air Force has known about this problem for two years and a has work-around, but in those two years not everyone in the single wing that has these aircraft knows about it.

Every aircraft in the Air Force has a checklist that is used to ensure that you don’t forget anything during take-offs and landings. No matter how many thousands of hours you have in a aircraft you are required to follow the checklist. Apparently in two years no one was able to update the checklists for 21 aircraft stationed at the same base in the same wing.

7 comments

1 Kryten42 { 06.07.08 at 2:37 am }

That’s simply insane Bryan! You know as well as I do that ever since WW2 moisture has been a notorious problem for any aircraft! JHC, every engineer worth a damn knows how that moisture effects sensitive instruments and sensors! Hell, I was designing moisture-proof sensors in the 80’s just so the damned things would work properly in the sub-tropics and winter here! It’s *NOT* rocket science or even difficult!

Bah! stupidity and corner-cutting greed is it’s own reward!

I guess the USA never heard of QA or risk-analysis. Well, of course not… silly me… that would cost money and might lower short-term profits. Of course, long term is something else, but nobody gives a damn about *long term* there obviously.

2 Kryten42 { 06.07.08 at 2:44 am }

*sigh* I should clarify what I said… what I meant was that there should NEVER have even been a moisture sensor problem to find a *work around* for in the first place! The fact that the morons-in-charge there couldn’t be bothered to tell anyone how to fix the problem (that should never have existed in the first place), is a whole separate (and highly unsurprising) problem. I think I can safely say that people would be right to assume that at a cost of $1.4bln each, moisture should not be any problem at all, anywhere! What next? They can’t fly them if the sun is shining? Geez.

3 hipparchia { 06.07.08 at 3:42 am }

yikes. glad they got out in time.

missouri is populated with $1.4 billion land-dwelling manta rays then?

4 distributorcap { 06.07.08 at 8:33 am }

$1.2 billion and they dont deal with moisture
then again hundreds of billions in iraq and the troops dont have proper armor

but those repubs – strong on defense
hrumph!

5 Bryan { 06.07.08 at 1:21 pm }

I was totally floored by this quote: “the aircraft actually performed as it was designed. In other words, all the systems were functioning normally.”

We have an aircraft that is “designed” to kill pilots by going into a stall and sideslip on take-off‽ The thing is almost all wing, so just hitting the throttles and steering a straight line should result in a take-off as soon as it is moving through the air fast enough. Air flow will pull it into the air. As long as you don’t have engine power problems, take-offs are easier than straight and level flight.

I’m going to write an update later on a little research I did after reading about the “moisture” problem. This isn’t something that was discovered two years ago. This is something that was known about for over a decade.

6 mapaghimagsik { 06.07.08 at 7:49 pm }

Shouldn’t “as designed” mean “it flies“?

7 Bryan { 06.08.08 at 12:04 am }

Welllllllll, that sort of depends on whose district it is being built in and how much pull they have.

In the unlamented days of “the Newt” the Air Force was running out of space to park them, but C-130s were being bought because they were built in his district.

Les Aspin kept the bloody tilt-rotor Osprey from being killed off multiple times.

These days where an aircraft is built depends on which Congresscritters have the most pull on the Armed Services Appropriations committee.

This garbage started during the “the War of Northern Aggression” [as they say down here] and hasn’t let up.

You are absolutely correct in your reading that airplanes really should be able to fly before we spend $1.4 Gigabucks per unit on them.

They were designed for an attack on the Soviet Union, which no longer exists, but no one has the strength of character to just put them down.