February 23rd in Aviation History

Image: The Crash Site

Credits: Wikimedia Commons

On the 23rd of February, 2008, a B-2 Spirit stealth bomber crashed shortly after take-off from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam, Micronesia.  This particular B-2 was called the “Spirit of Kansas” and had logged more than 5000 hours on different deployments with different units. When the stealth bomber left the ground, it stalled shortly afterwards. Despite the efforts of the crew, it could not be brought back into control. This was the first crash and total loss of a B-2 bomber.

Both the pilots ejected safely before the aircraft came to the ground. One was hospitalized while the other was in good condition to be released. Just after the crash, all the remaining B-2 bombers were grounded for evaluation.

This incident was the first operational loss of a B-2 bomber. And it costed the US Air Force a sum of USD 1.4 Billion. Hence, it is known as the most expensive crash in aviation history.

The investigation afterwards concluded that there was moisture which had entered some air data sensors. The B-2 had taken off after heavy, lashing rains and therefore water must have entered its skin flushed sensors. The aircraft computers thus had faulty data and calculated inaccurate angle of attack and airspeed. This caused the B-2 to stall and lose control.

The aircraft crashed into the ground and burned because of the fuel ignition. Fortunately, there were no munitions on board for this sortie. Although, some Air Force magazines said that there was ‘classified’ cargo on board.

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