B-2 Bomber Damaged In Emergency Landing; FAA TFR In Place


A USAF B-2 stealth bomber sustained unknown damage during an emergency landing at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri shortly after midnight Tuesday morning (Sept. 14). The Air Force reported there was no fire and no one was injured. The crew had reported an in-flight malfunction during what was described as a routine training flight.

The Air Force Global Strike Command issued the following statement: “A U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit experienced an in-flight malfunction during a routine training mission and was damaged on the runway at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, after an emergency landing.

“The incident is under investigation and more information will be provided as it becomes available.”

The FAA issued a temporary flight restriction (TFR) in the area that is scheduled to expire on Friday (Sept. 17). The restriction was imposed “to provide a safe environment for an accident investigation” according to an FAA statement, and is scheduled to be in place until 8 p.m. local time Friday (Sept. 17). 

Twenty-one B-2s were built. One was lost in a 2008 takeoff accident in Guam, in which no one was injured. The Air Force investigation blamed that mishap on heavy rains that compromised the aircraft’s instrument sensors. The B-2 that crashed this week has been stationed at Whiteman AFB since 1993, according to the Air Force.

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.

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  1. I have an inherent level of respect for B2 pilots, they’re flying an aircraft that is probably uncontrollable without its flight control computers operating properly in a vast majority of flying conditions, and a plodding subsonic sitting duck in combat if it is spotted. That takes some bravery. I don’t understand the point of telling a lie like “to provide a safe environment for an accident investigation” to justify the TFR to the public. The FAA enforces a draconian presidential TFR and never seems to try and justify or apologize for it with platitudes, why do they feel the need to make a platitude for this, much more understandable TFR? Seems you could just come out and say that the TFR is because the government doesn’t want any gawkers loitering. We all get that, it’s a highly protected aircraft and it’s really embarrassing to lose one. But there is no safety risk in having normal aircraft operations for that area around the crash site, and pretending otherwise is inane.

    • 14 CFR 91.137 permits temporary flight restrictions for a number of events (but not for “VIP” or Presidential TFRs, that’s another reg). 91.137 requires the reason for the TFR be stated, and “providing a safe environment…” is just a more polished way of stating that the TFR exists for safety of flight or to prevent congestion.

  2. Hey folks, since when must AvWeb succumb to false narrative headlines, like the non-aviation press does so often? “Crash”, which had no injuries, was “damaged on the runway”? Isn’t that a little strong for what was more likely a successful emergency landing after a gear or other malfunction?

  3. Not that it matters, but the TFR seems like a bit of an overkill. Whiteman appears to have a class D surface area open always except holidays. The TFR just sits in the middle of the Class D. I guess with the TFR up to 8K, then that’s the reason. Whatever.

  4. I worked on the B-2 program for over a decade. Originally, the order was for 132 airplanes, then 100, then 50 then an order for each one when the cold war ended. I was at the manufacturing site when the tooling was yanked outside and destroyed in the late 90’s. It was heartbreaking. Originally a SAc B-58 and B-52 guy, I always felt like 20 + 1 (the prototype was turned into an operational machine) was too few and that sooner or later some would be lost. The airplane — itself — didn’t cost $2B … it was the ancillary costs added in that made that so, among other things. I’m hoping that this “Spirit” can be resurrected; if for no other purpose than for training. At some point, the senior USAF people will decide that maintaining the B-2 costs too much and retire her just like they did the F-117A. First operational in 1993, the operational airplanes are already 30 years old … hard to believe.

    I was surprised to learn that a young female captain flew the B-2 that did the flyover for the Super Bowl. That, too, is a mistake. These airplanes are far to valuable to be flown by less than the best of the best experienced crews just so that some colonel or general can show that he’s “WOKE!” I don’t know anything about who was flying this one.

    Well … the B-21 “Raider” will be popping out momentarily. Hopefully, it will be able to perform all the missions of the B-2 … and more.

    • So Larry, you said “That, too, is a mistake. These airplanes are far to valuable to be flown by less than the best of the best experienced crews” followed by “I don’t know anything about who was flying this one”. How do you know the “young female captain” wasn’t the “best of the best” when by your own admission you don’t know anything about her?

      Captain Sarah Kociuba is one of 10 female B-2 pilots. She’s flown more than 90 combat missions and is an IP for the B-2. (source: Megan Di Trolio, Feb 6, 2021) Now you know who was flying it and given her track record of 90 combat missions, I think you can definitely say she is pretty damn qualified.

      • A good friend of mine, a retired USAF Lt.Col. was at age 28 the youngest B-52 aircraft commander the USAF ever had at the time. This was late ’60s and Vietnam time. He said it was a case of he was just damn good and generally most of his fellow officer crew out ranked him when outside of the aircraft. He went on to say tough that unfortunately, other than being a superb B-52 pilot and great at fighting a war, after that was no longer needed, he was worthless as a paper pusher and retired. So you never know. Age and rank don’t always tell the whole story.

      • I agree, good for the captain! I’m sure she had to pass the same checks as any male pilot. When I was a IP at a previous employer I always resented sexist comments I sometimes heard when I was giving dual to a female pilot. Not only are those comments uncalled for, it made me look like I was giving that pilot a free ride which was never the case. Maybe Larry S should read the book by General Robin Olds and see what he thought of giving pilot assignments by rank instead of ability when he was in Vietnam.

    • I KNEW when I wrote my comment that the woke and sexist crowd would show up. It wasn’t a sexist comment at all … it was a generic rank and experience comment. You boys can speak your mind and I can speak mine. I served 21 in the USAF … how many did each of you boys serve?

      My comment was mostly meant to convey that the B-2 is a VERY expensive war asset sadly built in too small a number and ONLY the best of the best should be flying it. Even then, every flight ought to be carefully thought about because as soon as the wheels are in the well, it’s at risk. That IS done but now that it’s getting older, IMHO, they’re getting too cavalier about it all. You’re right … I don’t know who was flying it. But I DO know that — generically — lower ranking people are flying the thing and now days we only have 19 (maybe 20 after some bondo work) left. THAT was my point. I’ll be watching closely to figure out who was actuating the stick.

      Captain Kociuba’s “rack” does not reflect 90 combat missions to me. Somehow, there’s a mismatch here?

      • Larry S. It’s possible you are not as up to date on the USAF’s current strategies in utilizing the technical talents of our Airmen regardless of age, sex, or rank. It is based on knowledge, and being able to transfer that knowledge into action. Our current Chief, Gen. Brown is focusing on implementing and expediting necessary change not only in multi-domain warfare technology, but also strategies to attract and retain Airmen. Currently, we have Captains flying the F35 Lightning II, as well. Our AF and SF have risen to the occasion in every scenario they are called upon, especially now, as voluntary branches of service. Please consider virtually attending our Air, Space, and Cyber Conference next week, and be sure to check the amazing agenda over three days. http://www.afa.org

        • Fair enough and good retort, Susan. I’ll take it under consideration.

          I just was doing some reconnoitering and found out that the previous Chief was eight when I joined the USAF; you can then extrapolate why some of MY views are skewed vis-a-vis “today’s” USAF. Beyond that, I did five years in SAC which was a far different AF from 2021’s AF.

          From public sources (The Drive), it appears that the airplane experienced a hydraulic problem, the L gear collapsed on landing so it turned left at the pass and came to rest in the grass adjacent to the runway. Hopefully, it’ll at least be able to fly again … one way or another.

  5. Well coming from someone who works them all the time….this was a long time coming. They (B-2 Squadron) admittedly cant/wont fly in inclement weather. Yet here on the ATC side we see what some of us would deem as a blatant disregard for preflight planning. These guys plan mission training flights through all sorts of weather. I cannot tell you how many time we scramble to help them look for unexpected refuelers because they got themselves stuck and unable to RTB due to weather. They seemingly dont do any preflight weather planning around their training missions, either that or they just say F it and go anyway.

    • EXACTLY my point from a different perspective, Kevin. The crash of the Spirit of Kansas in Guam in 2008 was weather related because the thing had been parked outdoors. The fancy pitot-static system (it isn’t called that but it’s close enough) got confused because there was water in them and commanded the computers to do something the crew wasn’t expecting and didn’t have time to overcome on takeoff. It was as much related to preflight procedures as anything else (now fixed). SOME of what you’re talking about here is related to the coatings on the machine … they don’t want to ablate it so they try to evade weather. It’s not all lack of preflight planning … some of it is related to our inability to predict weather fully.

      As long as everything is working correctly, a Cessna 150 pilot could likely be trained to fly one because computers would do everything. But as soon as something isn’t working correctly … trouble isn’t far behind. MY previous comment is exactly that … a deep understanding of the systems is necessary. That only comes from lots and lots of experience. Even our GA airplanes are that way … just less so.

      In the days of Curtis E. LeMay, the Wing Commander’s head would already be on a platter being served up as an example to others. Sadly, those days of SAC are now long gone.