Air Force Global Strike Command has ordered its B-1 bombers to stand down after finding 'an issue with ejection seat components'

US Air Force/Senior Airman Zachary HadaAircrew members do preflight checks on a B-1B Lancer bomber as part of an exercise at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, August 13, 2014.
  • Air Force Global Strike Command has ordered a safety stand-down for its B-1B Lancer bombers.
  • The order comes after a Lancer made an emergency landing in Texas in May.
  • The Air Force has dealt with a spate of aircraft incidents in recent months, and an investigation into the May incident is ongoing.

US Air Force Global Strike Command, which oversees the entire Air Force bomber fleet, ordered a safety stand down for its B-1B Lancer bombers on June 7, following an emergency landing by a Lancer in Texas in May.

“During the safety investigation process following an emergency landing of a B-1B in Midland, Texas, an issue with ejection seat components was discovered that necessitated the stand-down,” the command said in a release. “As issues are resolved aircraft will return to flight.”

A B-1B bomber from Dyess Air Force Base in Texas made an emergency landing at Midland International Airport in western Texas on May 1 after an in-flight emergency. Emergency responders made it to the runway before the plane landed, and none of the four crew members onboard were injured.

It was not clear what caused the emergency, though fire crews that responded used foam on the plane.

Photos that emerged of the bomber involved showed that at least one of its four cockpit escape hatches had been blown, but the ejection seat did not deploy.

B 1 lancerUS Air Force photo by Master Sgt. JT May IIIAircrew members from Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota conduct post-flight checks at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, August 6, 2016.

The B-1’s four-man crew includes a pilot, copilot, and two weapons officers seated behind them. All four sit in ejection seats and each seat has an escape hatch above it, according to Air Force Times. Pulling the ejection handle starts an automatic sequence in which the hatch blows off and a STAPAC rocket motor launches the seats from the aircraft. The entire process takes only seconds.

It was not clear at the time of the incident whether the blown hatch or hatches had been recovered or whether the ejection seats had failed to deploy.

A Safety Investigation Board, a panel made up of experts who investigate incidents and recommend responses, is looking into the incident at Midland, the Global Strike Command release said.

The Global Strike Command stand-down order comes about a month after the Air Force ordered a day-long, fleet-wide stand-down while it conducted a safety review following a series of deadly accidents. At the time, the Air Force said it was seeing fewer accidents but that 18 pilots and crew members had been killed since October 1.

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