Sunday, June 08, 2008

1.4 Billion dollar crash

I see that the US government has released video from a security camera showing the crash of a B2 stealth bomber on take-off from its home at Andersen AFB, Guam in the Pacific. The incident happened back on February 23rd 2008. This represents one of the most expensive crashes in history since these planes come at a cost of 1.4 billion dollars a piece.

The crash of the Spirit of Kansas, which had 5,100 flight hours, was the first ever for the B-2. Both pilots ejected before the crash and survived, but the aircraft was completely destroyed, at an estimated loss of US $1.4B. No munitions were on board because it and three other B-2s were returning to Whiteman Air Force Base from a temporary deployment to Guam. Chief of Air Combat Command General John Corley stated that the B-2 "rotated early, rotated excessively, stalled, and then dragged the left wingtip". The pilots then ejected and the aircraft ran off the side of the runway and burned.

The commander of the 509th Bomb Wing, Brig. Gen. Garrett Harencak, followed up on the incident by temporarily suspending flying operations for all 20 remaining B-2s to review procedures. Harencak termed the suspension a "safety pause" and stated that the B-2s would resume flying if called upon for immediate operations. The B-2 returned to flight on 15 April 2008.

The findings of the subsequent investigation stated that the B-2 crashed after water distorted preflight readings in three of the plane's 24 sensors, making the aircraft's control computer force the B-2 to pitch up on takeoff, causing the aircraft to stall and subsequently crash. The sensors in question measure numerous environmentals, such as air pressure, and help calculate everything from airspeed to altitude. Because of the bad data resulting from the distortions, the flight computers had inaccurate airspeed readings, and incorrectly indicated a downward angle for the aircraft, which contributed to an early rotation and an uncontrolled 30-degree pitch up, resulting in the stall.

The malfunction happened so slowly that both pilots were able to eject - and survive the crash. They might want to review how the security camera tracks these take-offs. My Logitech webcam does a better job of face tracking a moving object that this one does. Obviously going to be a Youtube hit.

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