The 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.