2008 Andersen Air Force Base B-2 accident

2008 Andersen Air Force Base B-2 accident
Spirit of Kansas
Accident summary
Date23 February 2008
SiteAndersen Air Force Base, Guam
Crew2
Survivors2
Aircraft typeB-2 Spirit
Aircraft nameSpirit of Kansas
OperatorUnited States Air Force
Tail number89-0127

The 2008 Andersen Air Force Base B-2 accident refers to a February 2008 incident when the Spirit of Kansas, a B-2 Spirit stealth heavy bomber, crashed back onto a runway shortly after takeoff from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam. The incident marks the first operational loss of a B-2 bomber. Both crew members were able to escape the vehicle.

Description

On 23 February 2008, a B-2 crashed back onto a runway shortly after takeoff from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam. The crash of the Spirit of Kansas, 89-0127, which had been operated by the 393rd Bomb Squadron, 509th Bomb Wing, Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, and which had logged 5,100 flight hours, was the first ever crash of a B-2.

The two officer crew attempted to save the bomber, but as one of its wings began to "hook" the ground, they ejected from the aircraft and survived the crash. The aircraft was completely destroyed, a total loss estimated at US$1.4 billion.

No munitions were on board because the crew was reportedly flying the aircraft, along with three other B-2s and respective crews, to Whiteman Air Force Base following a temporary deployment to Guam. At Guam Naval Hospital, one pilot was evaluated and released, while the second remained hospitalized. A B-2 already in the air was called back to Andersen following the crash, where it and the other B-2s were grounded until an initial investigation into the crash was complete. Six B-52s of the 96th Bomb Squadron, 2d Bomb Wing at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana were deployed to replace the B-2s. 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 fleet returned to flight status on 15 April 2008.

The findings of the subsequent investigation stated that the B-2 crashed after "heavy, lashing rains" caused water to enter skin-flush air-data sensors, which feed angle of attack and yaw data to the computerized flight-control system. The water distorted preflight readings in three of the plane's 24 sensors, causing the flight-control system to send an erroneous correction to the B-2 on takeoff. The B-2 quickly stalled, became unrecoverable, and subsequently crashed. The sensors in question measure numerous environmental factors, including air pressure and density, for data to calculate airspeed, altitude and attitude. Because of the faulty readings, the flight computers determined inaccurate airspeed readings and incorrectly indicated a downward angle for the aircraft, which contributed to an early rotation and an un-commanded 30-degree pitch up and left yaw, resulting in the stall.