Social Media Photos Raise Questions About B-1 Emergency Landing

A Rockwell B-1 Lancer sits after making an emergency landing at Midland International Air and Space Port on May 1, 2018, in Midland, Texas. The aircraft is a supersonic variable-sweep wing, heavy bomber used by the United States Air Force. (Jacob Ford/Odessa American via AP)
A Rockwell B-1 Lancer sits after making an emergency landing at Midland International Air and Space Port on May 1, 2018, in Midland, Texas. The aircraft is a supersonic variable-sweep wing, heavy bomber used by the United States Air Force. (Jacob Ford/Odessa American via AP)

Weeks after a B-1B Lancer bomber from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, made an emergency landing at Midland International Air and Space Port, officials say they will not disclose details of the incident until the investigation is complete.

"The B-1 aircraft incident is under investigation by the Safety Investigation Board at this time. The specific findings and recommendations of the SIB are protected by the military safety privilege and are not subject to release," 7th Bomb Wing spokesman Airman River Bruce told Military.com on Monday.

The incident occurred around 1:30 p.m. local time May 1. Local media reported at the time the non-nuclear B-1B was not carrying any weapons when it requested to land because of "an engine flameout." Midland is roughly 150 miles west of Dyess.

Last week, images surfaced on Facebook purporting to show a burnt-out engine from the incident, as well as photos from The Associated Press and Midland Reporter-Telegram showing that the B-1B, tail number 86-0109, was missing a ceiling hatch, leading to speculation an in-flight ejection was attempted.

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The back ceiling hatch, which hovers over either the offensive or defensive weapons systems officer (WSO), depending on mission set, was open, although all four crew members were shown sitting on the Midland flightline in the photos.

Stairs used to climb in or out of the aircraft in a non-emergency situation were deployed, the photos indicate. There was no sign of an egress rope, which would be used in a fire emergency to climb out one of the top hatches.

Unidentified individuals told the popular Facebook group Air Force Amn/Nco/Snco that a manual ejection from the offensive weapons system officer was attempted, but the ACES II seat did not blow, leading the crew to pursue a landing instead. There has been no official corroboration of that information.

Firefighters were on scene when the B-1 landed, local media photos showed at the time. Dyess officials said the crew was unharmed.

When asked whether the wing is aware of recent photos circulating on social media, Bruce said any information "released through unofficial platforms is not validated information."

"The SIB's purpose is to prevent future mishaps or losses and is comprised of experts who investigate the incident and recommend corrective actions if deemed applicable," he said in a statement.

The heavy, long-range bomber, which has the largest payload in the bomber fleet, is capable of carrying four crew members: pilot, co-pilot, and two back-seat WSOs, also known as wizzos.

The 7th Bomb Wing is responsible for producing combat-ready aircrews in the Air Force's only B-1B formal training unit.

Dyess is home to the 9th and 28th Bomb Squadrons, as well as the 489th Bomb Group, the Air Force's only Reserve B-1 unit.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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