Investigation Continues into B-1 Crash

B-1The Air Force continued its investigation into Monday’s B-1 bomber crash near Broadus, Mont., even after the 28th Bomb Wing commander ended the stand down for the wing’s B-1 fleet.

Questions remain over what caused the bomber to go down, but Col. Kevin Kennedy, 28th Bomb Wing commander, is confident after the wing inspected each B-1 that the Lancers could return to normal flight operations. The wing also said there was no evidence of fleet-wide problems.

“With no evidence of fleet-wide problems, it is important that we resume flying and keep proficient at our primary mission,” said  Col. Brooks McFarland, 28th Maintenance Group commander.

All four crew members ejected before the B-1 crash. The Air Force identified the two pilots and two weapons systems officers as Maj. Frank Biancardi II, an instructor pilot, Capt. Curtis Michael, an instructor pilot, Capt. Chad Nishizuka, an instructor weapons system officer, and Capt. Brandon Packard, an instructor weapons system officer.

What’s notable is the title each crew member has earned — instructor. This was not a rookie crew, it is one with enough experience and skills to train younger pilots. Wing officials described the mission the crew was flying as a routine training mission before the crash.

The last time a B-1 was destroyed in a crash was 2001 when a B-1 crashed into the Indian Ocean. A cause of the crash was never determined and all four crew members safely ejected.

The most recent B-1 to be destroyed was 2008 when a B-1 caught fire after landing at al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar. In the past ten years, the B-1 fleet has experienced 14 Class A mishaps.

The Air Force had 65 B-1 Lancers in its bomber fleet. During the Cold War, the B-1 carried nuclear weapons before it was converted to a strictly conventional bomber in the 1990s.

About the Author

Michael Hoffman
Michael Hoffman is the executive editor at Tandem NSI and a contributor to He can be reached at
  • Max

    How many B1s are left now? It’s a sweet-looking plane. I hope they keep it flying for another 50 years.

    • aaa

      re-read article. use math. get answer

      • anthony


    • According to an article in Forbes, the USAF had 65 B-1s just prior to the recent crash.

      Missing information added.

    • Proteus
    • Arby

      On the day of the B-1 retirement ceremony, the overflight will be performed by a B-52.

  • Lance

    I have a feeling the brass will use this incident to retire all B-1s in favor of saving money the Billion dollar F-35 JSF boondoggle. The DoD will get strapped for money but instead of looking into whats needed and repair upgrade what works they cheat and lie to save there pet projects. Its sad is this the end of the Lancer????

  • Captain Obvious

    The YB-3 is looking like a pretty tight lipped project at Lockeed Grumman. From what my sources have gathered, it’s built to support un-manned control, manned control, and an extra compartment in the middle that measures 20’x20′ saved for future enhancements that they want to add.

    • hunter76

      This manned/unmanned co-ability is a trend now, isn’t it. Isn’t that a requirement for the gen6 fighter? And a helicopter? Supported by the manned lobby, of course– but even they see there’s a down side to sending a lot of men into a high attrition environment. But it’s a big deal, because the airframe has to carry the heavy weight of the life support and rescue systems. And man-safe is very expensive.

    • Jeff

      Your sources? You mean some guys in their mom’s basement with a computer, an internet connection, an imagination, and too much time on their hands?

      Are they the ones who told you “Lockheed Grumman” is pretty tight-lipped about a highly classified project? I bet everyone at Lockheed Martin and at Northrop Grumman are just yakking their butts off though.


    Nice airplane. It has a higher bomb load than a -52, right? Nope, the AF can’t be that dumb. Keep it USAF!

  • Big-Dean

    “Questions remain over what caused the bomber to go down” doh!

    wouldn’t the first thing you do is ask the crew, that seems logical to me

  • RCDC

    Maintain it and keep it flying. Armed it with long range cruise for future defense. You never know when we need it for defense.

  • Dfens

    It sounds like it may take several more weeks before they find the crash was due to pilot error.

  • Tony C.

    The B1-B flies like a fighter, so maybe the experienced crew was hot dogging before the plane went down. The Air Force will always find pilot error in these situations.

  • Musson

    The B1s have never been a particularly reliable aircraft. But, it is impressive when it works.

    I remember when the Air Force sent 5 to Diego Garcia and only 1 made it. The other 4 had mechanical problems along the way.

  • Superfly

    Throwing a few training pilots in the cockpit together is a recipe for disaster.

    • Superfly

      Really? Cockpit is vulgar?

      • platypusfriend

        Welcome, glad you could join us here at DefenseTech.

    • Bronco46

      What are you talking?

  • “…complicated airplane…”

    “…crash was due to pilot error.”

    “…the experienced crew was hotdogging….”.

    Why not come up with some entertaining conspiracy theories instead?

  • Tribulatiotime

    Investigation Continues….”With no evidence of fleet-wide problems”. Don´t merge. Planes fall off every day, Crash is the next word after Take-off in a Check List (joke). after 20 years or so of fly is sure than a fleet problem is not the answer. A bit hollow news.

  • Kirby

    .B-1s are convetional only. that makes them more of a target for drawdowns then B-52s and B-2s. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a drawdown to 50 active birds, especially if this incident is traced down to aircraft fatigue or supply system issues. Such a drawdown would put one of the two B-1 bases in jeapordy of closure come the next Brac board.

  • Steve B.

    I would doubt pilot error on this one. When they hot dog it on this plane,.they do what it does best, really fast, really low. A hot dogging pilot then hits some granite cumulus and that’s all she wrote and the crew does not have time to punch out.

    Since they all got out, chances are pretty good the crew knew of a problem that they could’t deal with, thus punched. Thus pointing to mechanical.

    • Vaporhead

      Or they stalled it, or fuel stavation, etc, which all could be pilot error.

    • Jeff

      Or perhaps the B-1B hit some B-1RDs? It’s happened before.

  • William_C1

    Any chance any of the B-1Bs stored in the boneyard could be brought to operational status if the need to replace this and other attrition losses arises?

    • Rest Pal

      LOL. You are one funny and sad daydreamer.

      Get ready for crashes from the B-2 fleet.

      The only bomber in the US arsenal that’s worth being called a bomber is the B-52. The B-1s and B-2s are merely money-extracting devices of the contractors – totally unnecessary against countries the US can afford to fight, and totally useless against countries that the US want to but cannot afford to fight.

      • Vaporhead

        Do you have data to support your position?

      • I disagree, all three planes are remarkable. But, the one with the least utility in a major war would be the B-52. But I forget how limited you knowledge of these subject are.

        • blight_

          Now that there are no more ALCM’s left, the utility of the B-52 is limited to dropping bombs after it’s safe enough to operate. Presumably this means after enemy runways are cratered, and trusting EW to protect you from ground-based AA.

        • Rest Pal

          LOL. Thanks for revealing your complete cluelessness in such a terse way.

          It’s clear that you (1) are not properly trained in any technical field (e.g. engineering), (2) have never read, much less analyze, the history of warfare, (3) know nothing about the relative merits of the platforms, (4) know nothing about the capabilities of major potential adversaries, (5) know nothing about the political history of the U.S. (6) know nothing about the current state of affairs and the grave reality the US is facing at this point.

          A little exercise for you:
          (1) define “utility”
          (2) define “major war”
          (3) define “remarkable”
          (4) define, then justify your standard of “least utility in a major war”

    • 90% of the aircrafts in the bone yard in Tucson AZ are able to be placed back operational service. I cant remember how long it takes to get a specific aircraft ready but it is just a matter of days. Some aircraft can be returned to service within a day. Though many of the some would need to be just used as parts as they have set for so long, and other are just outdated that they would need many upgrades for a full scale war against a formidable country like Russia or China. But if we need to get planes in the air as long as we could find enough pilots they will have planes to fly.

  • One of the 4 crewmen who ejected from the B1 is a brother of a C-12 pilot who was killed in the crash in Apr in Afghanistan.

  • Jim

    Pretty sure I saw a b1 fly over somerset in england close to this date, what was it doing here, close to ground as well.

    • JCitizen

      I’ve noticed many over flights here too, but they were not hugging the ground. They were pretty close to supersonic and just under such. I probably should not be saying this, but they had two different camouflage schemes as well. The noise gets my blood boiling though – I just love those birds!

      • Jeff

        Yep, better not be saying that. If “they” find out, you could be in deep doo-doo. Anyone who can use their Mk 1 eyeballs to determine speed that accurately AND detect different camouflage on such fast-moving aircraft definitely should NOT be posting here.


    The B-1 is an excellent platform, more maneuverable than the B-52; but to get the most out of the B-1, the US Air Force needs to consider doing an engine upgrade to the PW F119 used in the F-22 Raptor to allow the B-1 to supercruise.

  • junglejim23
  • junglejim23

    They have been doing a ton of fly overs and touch and go’s at the airport here in Billings ( Logan ) all of the local info on the crash and the security and AF presence along with some other info seem to point to the fact that the ordnance on board was anything but conventional.

    • Jeff

      If it wasn’t conventional, then it was nuclear, so you’re claiming a bomber fleet that was switched from the nuclear to the conventional role nearly 20 years ago is still carrying nukes and that one or more were lost in the crash? Quite a claim, Jimmy, quite a claim.

  • junglejim23
  • junglejim23

    They have been doing a ton of fly overs and touch and go’s at the airport here in Billings ( Logan ) all of the local info on the crash and the security and AF presence along with some other info seem to point to the fact that the ordnance on board was anything but conventional.

  • Vectorer

    These commentary spots reinforce to me the saying ” Opinions are like a**holes, everyone has them and some as shi**y!”

  • top dog

    “With no evidence of fleet-wide problems, it is important that we resume flying and keep proficient at our primary mission,” said Col. Brooks McFarland, 28th Maintenance Group commander.”____________________________________________How can he say there is no fleet-wide problem, when they don’t know what the problem is, or don’t know what caused this one to go down? I’ve seen in the past where the crash was blamed on the pilot, that was convenientt, seeing as how the pilots wasn’t around to defend themselves, the crew survived this one. I know he need his birds in the air but, I would think it would be safer to find the cause of this crash first, before he start making assumptions…..Just my opinion.

  • nilsplat

    These birds and crews fly thousands of hours safely. One goes down with no crew loss and everyone panics. What happened to the good old days when aircraft systems were
    developing and crashes were frequent?

    They didn’t panic then and we should not now.

  • Jeff

    So now that the official investigation has released the official cause, where are all of the armchair experts who posted here about what they said caused it? None of you, not one, were right. What a surprise. So many “experts”, so little real knowledge and they’re all hiding 4-1/2 months later when the facts about what really happened come out.