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 Military.com. He can be reached at mhoffman@tandemnsi.com.
  • 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

    • 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.

  • USS ENTERPRISE

    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

    • Dfens

      No, they blame the crew because it obviously is not the defense contractor. Defense contractors do nothing but good. Aircrews, on the other hand, are worthless and continue to crash vehicles despite the good work of the defense contractors. In the rare occasion that a defense contractor does screw up, they are paid vast sums of money to fix the problem they, naturally, had no blame for in the first place.

    • UAVGeek

      It’ll come out in the accident investigation. Ever read a USAF or NTSB investigation? Quite thorough

    • Jeff

      Yeah, I bet they never thought to do that. Good idea!

  • 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.

    • We had five at Hickam at one point, all five were broken. Kansas had left one behind when they went home with an engine change, and the other four were out of Singapore, and all took ice down the engine. They had to choose between deicing and navigation, because they’re so underpowered.

  • Superfly

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

  • “…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.

    • platypusfriend

      The incident crew must’ve reported back Problem X, and then the Air Force went and checked every airframe for Problem X.

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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!

  • OMEGATALON

    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.

  • 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!”

    • Jeff

      Scarey, isn’t it?

  • 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.

    • Jeff

      Imagine that! Just a few days after the crash and they don’t have all the answers and a full report yet. What a bunch of slackers.

      I love how you criticize the wing commander for making assumptions. Nice touch.

  • 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.