One of the pilots of the B-2 stealth bomber, Spirit of Kansas, reported a fire at takeoff from Andersen AFB, Guam which was followed quickly by loss of control of the bomber, according to a senior Air Combat Command official.
The stealth bomber rolled uncontrollably to the right and fell between the taxiway and the ramp at 10:45 am Feb. 23 Guam time just after passing the control tower. It was attempting a takeoff toward the seaward end of the runway. The two pilots ejected with one being hospitalized. A dark plume of smoke rose from the crash site and civilians outside the base reported a second explosion about 30-min. after the initial impact.
The aircraft can lose one or even two of its four General Electric F118-GE-100 17,300-lb. thrust engines and still take off, so its unlikely that engine failure was to blame, says a retired U.S. Air Force pilot who has flown the B-2. Moreover, early suggestions that the aircraft struck birds or stalled in a steep takeoff climb also have been dismissed as unlikely. Also, the weather was reported as clear.
The Spirit of Kansas, tail no. 890127, was the second in a four aircraft flight that was ending its deployment and taking off for return to home base at Whiteman AFB, Mo. They were being replaced by six B-52s as a forward-based, heavy-bomber force in the Pacific. The loss cuts the number of combat coded B-2s to 15 from 16 out of the total force of 21. The force has a minimum aircraft requirement of 19 airframes.
The other three B-2s later returned to Whiteman where the wing commander has declared a safety pause for the fleet, says ACC officials. During the pause procedures are being reviewed with the pilots and training is at a standdown. However, if the stealthy bomber is needed for an operational mission it is cleared to fly.
The aircraft that crashed rolled off Northrop Grummans line in 1989 and had accumulated 5,176 flying hr. at the time of the crash.
Early testing indicated that the aircraft would remain structurally intact for about 40,000 flying hr. Analyses also posited that the rudder attachment points would be the first structural failure item.