Report: Mechanical malfunction led to August B1 bomber crash
RAPID CITY (AP) — An Air Force report says a mechanical malfunction that started in a fuel leak caused the crash of an Ellsworth Air Force Base B-1B bomber during a training exercise in August over southeastern Montana.
The report, released this week by the Air Combat Command Accident Investigation Board, concluded that about 7,000 pounds of fuel leaked into the aircraft and was ignited by hot ductwork, leading to a series of detonations in the plane. People on the ground who witnessed the incident said the plane broke apart in midair, scattering debris over several miles of ranchland.
The four crew members safely ejected and escaped serious injury. No one on the ground was hurt.
The report determined there was no evidence that human error contributed to the crash, which destroyed the $318 million aircraft.
The plane crashed Aug. 19 near Broadus, Mont., about 170 miles southeast of Billings, Mont.
The plane and crew were assigned to the 34th Bomb Squadron, 28th Bomb Wing, at Ellsworth. The base in southwestern South Dakota near Rapid City is one of only two bases in the U.S. with B-1B crews. The base shut down flights for three days in the wake of the crash.
The crash was the first time a B-1B was destroyed in a crash since Dec. 12, 2001, when a bomber involved in the war in Afghanistan slammed into the Indian Ocean near the island of Diego Garcia.