The Air Force's B-1B Lancer strategic bombers will resume flight operations this week, Air Force Global Strike Command announced on Tuesday, following a two-week fleet-wide safety stand-down — the service's response to a horrifying ejector seat malfunction in May.
- The service grounded B-1B fleet after an ejection seat reportedly malfunctioned on a crippled bomber on May 1, forcing the pilots to attempt an emergency landing with a blown hatch after finding one of the aircrew was unable to eject. Luckily, the aircraft landed safely in Midland, Texas.
- A subsequent investigation into the May incident revealed fleet-wide problems with components of the B-1B fleet’s ejection seats, spurring a stand-down until the issues were totally resolved.
- “We have high confidence that the fleet's egress systems are capable and the fleet is ready to return to normal flight operations,” 8th Air Force Commander Maj. Gen. Thomas Bussiere said in a statement.
- While the stand-down included the B-1B bombers engaged in the U.S. counter-terror fights in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, the Air Force reassured the media that “other aircraft that take on the bombers’ missions while the aircraft are being inspected,” as T&P;'s previously Jeff Schogol reported.
The May 1 mission commander mission commander faced a nightmare choice of “saving the remaining two crewmembers and their own life by ejecting or risking all of their lives to land the crippled aircraft,” as T&P;'s Brad Howard noted in the aftermath of the emergency landing. “Had the fire spread it could easily have resulted in a flashpoint situation which would have destroyed the entire aircraft in short order.”