Air Force B-1B Crash Probe to Take ‘Weeks to Months to Complete’

Flight operations were paused at the South Dakota air base amid the ongoing investigation into what caused the mishap.

A B-1 bomber touches down at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, July 25, 2016. [Courtesy: U.S. Air Force]

It could be months before the Air Force knows what caused a B-1B Lancer to crash at Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota, last week, according to a top service commander.

The mishap occurred Thursday afternoon, as two Air Force B-1Bs assigned to the air base conducted a local training sortie as a formation.

"The lead aircraft landed successfully, and the second aircraft crashed at approximately 5:50 p.m. [CST] during the landing phase," said Colonel Derek Oakley, commander of the 28th Bomb Wing.

The four aircrew on board the bomber all ejected safely, and one remains in a local hospital for treatment of nonlife-threatening injuries, he said. 

"Losing an aircraft is difficult, but I cannot overemphasize that we have four safe aircrew," Oakley said.

Following the crash, flight operations were paused at the airfield, Oakley said Tuesday in a video message posted on Facebook.

"We are carefully assessing checklists and safety procedures to resume flight operations when it's safe to do so," he said.

Over the weekend, an Air Force safety team began identifying and preserving evidence, and a thorough investigation has been launched in order to identify the cause of the mishap, Oakley said.

"This process could take from weeks to months to complete," he said. "The purpose of convening a safety investigation board is to prevent future mishaps. The second process is convening an accident investigation board to conduct a legal investigation to inquire into the facts and circumstances surrounding the accident to prepare a publically released full report and to preserve all available evidence." 

Kimberly is managing editor of FLYING Digital.

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