Detached Component Doomed B-1

A major fuel leak caused by a displaced baffle cutting into the main fuel line of a B-1B bomber led to the aircraft’s crash in a pasture near Broadus, Mont., during a training mission last August, announced Air Combat Command. The four crewmembers ejected safely, sustaining non-life-threatening injuries; the bomber was destroyed at a loss of some $317.7 million, states ACC’s Dec. 30 release, which cites the findings of the command’s newly issued accident investigation board report. As the B-1 descended from approximately 20,000 feet in altitude to 10,000 feet, the pilot swept the aircraft’s wings from the forward to the aft position. The wing sweep pushed the baffle—which had already become detached at one or more points, preventing it from folding—into the left overwing fairing cavity where it cut a hole in the main fuel line, states the release. Unbeknownst to the crew, approximately 7,000 pounds of fuel leaked into the aircraft. Fuel eventually ignited, causing a series of detonations that resulted in the complete and permanent loss of power to the crew compartment, according to the release. The B-1 and crew were assigned to the 34th Bomb Squadron at Ellsworth AFB, S.D. (AIB report; caution, large-sized file.)