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.

      • Jeff


  • 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????

    • There are only 76 ancient B-52s and 20 20 year old B-2s left in the inventory and the next new bomber is scheduled to be fielded in 2025.If they retire the B-1s we will be “..carrying our freedom in a paper bag”.

      = Polish cavalry.

      • blight_

        Polish calvary actually held back a German infantry unit. Horses and Bofors does the trick, but tankettes can never hold back Panzers, even Panzer I.

        There’s also the aerial attack component that gets frequently overlooked.

        Doesn’t help when you get ganged up on by the Soviet Union…

        Edit: at Krojanty there was an actual charge against an infantry unit, repelled by armored cars. God bless machinegun platforms that don’t bleed.

      • John Deere

        The Polish military performed the best out of all the allied armies in 1939. The Carpathian Mountain Division remained undefeated and refused to surrender, they route marched from Poland across hostile territory to Syria, where they established a new base of operations.

        • blight_

          Poland had tons of soldiers that fought until ’45 for a country that got occupied by the Soviets.

          Some went south through Romania, then France and Britain. Others were captured by the Soviets and went with Anders Army into the Middle East.

        • William_C1

          To Syria? Why there of all places? Any good reading material on the subject?

    • Arrowz

      Fighters are for fun, Bombers make policy.

    • Atomic Walrus

      The B-1 has always been a bit of a hard case from an operational standpoint. The B-52 is older, but less complex and hence more reliable. The B-2 is newer, far more complex and difficult to maintain, but has stealth capabilities that the B-1 can’t match. You’re probably right that the B-1 is a prime target for retirement, but that’s mainly a function of it being a small fleet of aircraft with a convoluted development history, inadequate supply of spares, and a complex design. Typical late ’60s, early ’70s aircraft: pushing the boundaries on all kinds of systems prior to the materials and digital controls revolution of the ’70s and ’80s, leading to all kinds of trouble.

      • Dfens

        Yeah, they’ll probably retire the B-1 right after they relied so heavily on it during the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. That’s what always happens, they retire the aircraft they counted on the most during a recent conflict. It’s not like the B-1 can sweep the wings forward and loiter for a long time over a conflict area and then sweep them back and to arrive quickly at a hot zone to provide air support or kill a target of opportunity. Oh wait, yes, it’s just like that. If the Air Force knew what the hell they were doing they’d replace the current B-1 engines with F119’s from the F-22. That way the airplane could loiter and get to target areas at Mach 2+ like it was originally designed to do.

        • Atomic Walrus

          You’d basically have to redesign and rebuild the airframe to deal with the maintenance & reliability issues. Same sort of problem with the F-111 and F-14, which were the same design vintage. The B-1B has never been capable of Mach 2 flight because the variable geometry inlets were deleted as part of the redesign of the B-1A. Instead, there are some low-observable features like inlet diverters.

          • Dfens

            The ramps were not deleted, they were just locked into position. There are more sophisticated ways to hide a compressor rotor now than there were in the ’80s, and even if there weren’t the stealth aspect of the B-1 mission is clearly in the past now so one would expect that a re-engine program would fix the B-1B intakes so they didn’t have the problems the current intakes have. Not that the Air Force couldn’t snatch defeat from the jaws of victory as they have done so many times in the past, but hopefully they wouldn’t.

    • Noah
  • 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!

    • RAB

      I was admittedly surprised, but you’re right. The B-1 does have a slightly higher internal bomb load capacity than the B-52. However, the B-52 has a significantly longer operational range than the B-1.

  • 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.

    • 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?

    • Guest

      The Nukes on board were needed for an upcoming false flag event in the US.

  • 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.

    • 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.

    • Jeff

      Sure, just bolt them in. Never mind that the attachment points, and therefore the thrust forces, would be different, that the accessory drives are different, etc, etc. No problem. This is why they pay you the big bucks to advise the air force on such things, right?

    • CSARmedic

      @OMEGATALON. Sir, you have no idea of what you speak. The B-1 is a pig. You can’t get it to fly when you need it. Look at the mission capability rates. Is it any wonder that they downgraded this “nuclear delivery” aircraft back down to conventional-only? It can’t be relied upon to effectively and safely carry nukes to target. Ever notice that that ALL the press about the B-1 is about 1. crashes, 2. the rare occurrence of actually carrying out an operational mission or 3. a new “milestone” in it’s career which, rightfully, should have been carried out 20-something years ago after it entered service.
      The B-1 is one of the biggest, most expensive butt-f@&#s the Pentagon sold the American taxpayer,

  • 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!”

    • 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.