The 28th Bomb Wing ended the stand-down of B-1 bomber flights on Thursday after the commander decided it was safe to resume operations following a B-1 crash near Broadus, Mont., on Monday.
The cause of the crash has not yet been determined, and the crash investigation is ongoing, wing officials said. However, Col. Kevin Kennedy, 28th Bomb Wing commander, said he has received enough information to determine it was safe to resume flying.
The crew -- two pilots and two weapons systems officers -- aboard the B-1 ejected safely from the stricken aircraft. No civilians were hurt or property damaged in the resultant crash.
Kennedy said he ordered the stand-down in order to "ensure the safety of our aircrews and surrounding communities." The stand-down only applied to B-1s flying out of Ellsworth with the 28th Bomb Wing. Kennedy said he's confident the aircraft can return to flight.
"We have reviewed all information available to us in making the determination to return to fly," he said. "We are confident in the training and professionalism of our aircrew and maintenance personnel and look forward to returning to normal flying operations."
Maintainers with the 28th Bomb Wing have inspected each B-1 in the wing for "airworthiness before releasing it to fly," said Col. Brooks McFarland, 28th Maintenance Group commander.
"With no evidence of fleet-wide problems, it is important that we resume flying and keep proficient at our primary mission," McFarland said.
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, were identified Tuesday as the crew members involved in the crash.
The B-1 Lancer was flying a routine training mission prior to the crash. Ellsworth officials didn't say whether the bomber was carrying weapons at the time of the crash.
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.
The aircraft, built by Boeing, has a 134-foot wingspan, a 30,000 foot ceiling, and can fly Mach 1.2 at sea level, according to Air Force statistics. It has served a prominent role in the Afghanistan war flying bombing mission over the past decade.
|Crashes and Collisions Aircraft Michael Hoffman|