Partial Engine Failure Likely Prompted B-2 Emergency Landing: Audio

FILE PHOTO -- A B-2 Spirit returns from a recent training mission at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, Feb 25, 2018. (U.S. Air National Guard/Senior Master Sgt. Mary-Dale Amison)
FILE PHOTO -- A B-2 Spirit returns from a recent training mission at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, Feb 25, 2018. (U.S. Air National Guard/Senior Master Sgt. Mary-Dale Amison)

An Air Force B-2 Spirit stealth bomber made an emergency landing at the Colorado Springs Airport after reportedly experiencing a partial engine failure, according to an air traffic control audio recording that recently surfaced on social media.

The Facebook page "Colorado Springs Crime Watch" posted the two-minute audio of the incident, which occurred around 3 a.m. Tuesday morning, with the Colorado Springs' tower attempting to communicate with the heavy bomber. The Drive was first to report the audio's contents.

After a controller communicated the B-2, callsign Step 7-2, had requested to land, someone said, "There's another issue with the aircraft coming in. They are unable to change frequencies so...I'm just relaying through Denver Center all of the information, but as far as I know, it's just the number four engine that's out."

The pilots' initial request cannot be heard on the recording. Air traffic control guided the pilots in, using a light gun to signal where to land.

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"I saw them on radar, so that was really my only indication [of where they were]," another voice says.

The Colorado Springs Crime Watch group also said the pilots received supplemental oxygen after safely landing.

The nuclear-capable B-2, assigned to the 509th Bomb Wing, Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, made an emergency landing in Colorado Springs en route to Whiteman, officials said Tuesday. The B-2 has four General Electric F118-GE-100 engines.

Officials said the bomber was on a routinely scheduled flight, but did not disclose where it was coming from.

Whether the pilots experienced pressure or oxygen level changes was not immediately clear. The 509th Bomb Wing would not comment on the reports of engine trouble nor pilots' necessity for oxygen once they landed.

"The aircraft experienced an in-flight emergency," 2nd Lt. Allen Palmer told Military.com in a statement Thursday. "A Maintenance Recovery Team is currently assessing the aircraft to determine the cause. Both pilots have been released following routine medical checks. They were not harmed in the landing. Our airmen's health and safety underpin everything we do."

Local media reported the bomber landed and was met by emergency responders from the 21st Space Wing, Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado.

So far this year, the Air Force has had a range of aircraft problems, including flightline emergencies, paused operations at bases, emergency landings and even stand-downs of entire fleets.

For the B-1B Lancer, the B-2's non-nuclear counterpart, operations were completely halted for nearly two weeks in June over safety concerns related to the bomber's ejection seat system.

The stand-down came after a Texas-based B-1 had to execute an emergency landing after discovering problems with the ejection system. Officials said the Dyess bomber's seats did not blow after it experienced an engine fire May 1.

UTC Aerospace Systems, manufacturer of the B-1's ACES II ejection seat, has said the seat itself is not the problem, but rather the sequencing system.

According to published 2016 operational costs for Air Force aircraft, the B-2 costs $121,866 per hour to fly.

Its mission-capable rate -- or the ability to be war-ready at a moment's notice -- hovers around 53 percent, according to 2017 figures reported by Air Force Times.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @oriana0214.

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