B-1 bomber may have started multiple fires

A B-1 bomber based at Ellsworth Air Force Base near Rapid City, South Dakota, apparently started seven vegetation fires last Thursday. The flight crew declared an in-flight emergency and made an emergency landing at Ellsworth. Construction workers in the area reported seeing smoke and flames coming from the aircraft. The B-1 landed safely while Air Force and Box Elder fire departments put out the fires.

This happened about 2 weeks after an Ellsworth B-1 made another emergency landing at Anderson Air Force Base on Guam on March 8. In that incident, after the crew exited the aircraft it rolled into some emergency vehicles, causing major damage to the aircraft and the vehicles. The reports do not say if the crew simply forgot to set the parking brakes. The B-1 was in transit from an air show at Singapore back to Ellsworth when the crew declared an in-flight emergency and landed at Guam.

UPDATE, MARCH 26, 2008

You have to wonder if maintenance issues or the heavy use of our military assets on conflicts and wars has anything to do with these two incidents. Our B-1’s have been used fairly heavily since 1998 in Kosovo, Iraq, Afganistan, and again in Iraq. Much of our military equipment has been damaged, destroyed, or just worn out while serving as the World Police. If we ever need the military to actually defend our country, I hope it’s ready.

You also might question the wisdom of sending a bomber from South Dakota to Singapore and back to appear in an air show. Do you think the hourly cost of a B-1 is more than a Type 1 helicopter or air tanker?

UPDATE, September 18, 2008
An investigation by the Air Force into the Guam incident determined that a brake valve failure caused the B-1 to collide with the two aircraft rescue firefighting vehicles.  The right side hand-brake metering valve malfunctioned, depleting the brake system’s hydraulic pressure, “rendering the aircraft’s brake systems inoperative when the engines shut down”.


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