The United States Air Force (USAF) has once again grounded its Rockwell B-1B Lancer supersonic bomber fleet following safety concerns regarding the aircraft’s ejection seat.
The fleet was grounded by the USAF’s Global Strike Command on 28 March 2019 after a routine inspection discovered issues with the rigging of the aircraft’s ejection seat drogue chute system. This marks the second time in 12 months that the B-1B Lancer fleet has been grounded due to safety concerns with its ejection seat system. Since the recent grounding, the USAF has ordered a full inspection of the fleet’s ejection systems.
“The safety stand-down will afford maintenance and aircrew flight equipment technicians the necessary time to thoroughly inspect each aircraft.”
United States Air Force
In May 2018, a B-1B Lancer had to make an emergency landing at Midland International Air and Space Port in Texas. The aircraft blew an escape hatch without launching an ejection seat. All four crew members were unharmed and landed the aircraft safely. In June 2018, the USAF elected to ground its B-1B fleet. The flight suspension lasted roughly a week and a half. The USAF insists that this recent grounding is not related to last year’s incident and is more of a procedural issue.
“The safety stand-down will afford maintenance and aircrew flight equipment technicians the necessary time to thoroughly inspect each aircraft… As these inspections are completed and any issues are resolved, aircraft will return to flight,” says the USAF.The Rockwell B-1 Lancer first flew on 23 December 1974 and entered service with the USAF in 1986. The aircraft first saw operational combat during Operation Desert Fox in 1998 and has since supported NATO forces over Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and have been used as a show of force in the Korean peninsula. The B-1B formerly was capable of carrying the B61/ B83 nuclear bombs, however it no longer has that capability. The USAF is planning to replace the B-1B Lancer with the Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider long-range, deep-penetration stealth bomber by 2036.