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Thu, Feb 28, 2008

Official: B-2 Accident Pilot Reported Fire Onboard

Fleet Remains On 'Safety Pause' As Investigation Continues

US Air Force investigators say the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber that crashed on takeoff this weekend in Guam had a fire onboard, according to industry reports.

Citing an unnamed senior Air Combat Command official, a trade publication states one of the aircraft's pilots reported a onboard fire, according to The Air Force Times. The aircraft then rolled uncontrollably to the right, and impacted the ground at Anderson Air Force Base.

As ANN reported, both pilots were able to eject from the stricken bomber, moments before the aircraft crashed between the ramp and a taxiway on the base at 1045 local time Saturday morning. One of those pilots is still hospitalized, undergoing treatment in a Hawaii hospital for spinal compression, said Pacific Air Force command spokesman Tech. Sgt. Tom Czerwinski.

Meanwhile, investigators continue to look into what led circumstances led to the first-ever downing of a B-2. On Monday, USAF officials declared a "safety pause" in further B-2 operations, in effect until a cause can be determined.

The Spirit fleet is not grounded, said 1st Lt. Matt Miller, spokesman for the 509th Bomb Wing which operates the B-2s. In case of an urgent mission, a B-2 would be made operationally available.

"A safety pause is the most prudent thing to do after something like this," he said.

The aircraft that crashed was the "Spirit of Kansas," one of 21 Spirit bombers in the USAF fleet. The accident aircraft, production number 89-0127, was first delivered to the Air Force in February 1995.

The aircraft had 5,100 hours on its airframe, Miller said, and was one of four scheduled to return home to Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri after a four-month deployment in Guam.

Until the pause is lifted, the three remaining Spirits on Guam will stay on the ground. A special deployment of six B-52s from the 96th Bomb Wing at Barksdale Air Force Base, LA, will handle patrol duties in the Asia-Pacific region in place of the Spirits.

FMI: www.af.mil, www.fas.org/nuke/guide/usa/bomber/b-2.htm

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