Air Force Reports B-1B Down In South Dakota; Crew Safe

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Early reports out of Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota indicate all four members of the crew of a B1-B Lancer bomber are safe after ejecting from the aircraft. The accident occurred about 5:50 p.m. local time today (Jan. 4) as the aircraft was attempting to land at Ellsworth as part of a routine training mission, according to a statement from the base’s public affairs office.

According to news reports, Ellsworth is home to the U.S. Air Force 28th Bomb Wing, which includes 27 B-1B Lancers. The base is one of only two worldwide that hosts the B-1B. As of 2021, the Air Force counted its B-1B fleet at 45 of the swept-wing, supersonic aircraft. They are scheduled to be progressively replaced after 2025 by the Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider.

Mark Phelps
Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

17 COMMENTS

  1. Replacing the B1B with a subsonic flying wing. Maybe the days of the manned bomber are over? We only have 45 of the B1Bs and 72 B52s. Hardly a force to be reckoned with anymore. The Chinese only have 120 so it appears all countries are abandoning the bomber.

    • I suspect they view a limited fleet as continuing to be useful for missions in uncontested territory, i.e. against enemies who can’t effectively fight back. The Navy’s big capital ships face the same sort of future.

    • I agree. Perhaps the advent of ever-longer-range precision unmanned weapons is slowly making them obsolete.

      The B-1B is also subsonic, by the way, unlike the original B-1A program that was cancelled. That’s not fair – anything that looks that cool really should go way faster. One of the most beautiful planes built, in my opinion. I’m sorry to see them go.

  2. Eject while attempting to land? Sounds like there wasn’t a lot of time to think it over. I wonder, if one crew member ejects from a B-1, does ejection happen for the others automatically?

  3. B-1B is supersonic, Mach 1.2 top speed. All 4 ejection seats can go independently, but generally below 10000 feet they are set to an auto sequencing mode where if either pilot ejects then everyone goes in a very close but intentionally programmed swquence.

  4. With the reported weather at time of accident I’m wondering if the plane picked up a load of ice while descending. It has happened once before. There is no ice protection on the airframe on the B1.

  5. Very glad the crew was able to egress as designed and survive. I think this was serial 85-0085, #45 in the production run. If I recall, it would have been originally assigned to Ellsworth in the late 80’s. Tough loss for the Air Force and for the nation. Still, I’m glad the crew made it out.

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