A US Air Force (USAF) Northrop Grumman B-2A Spirit stealth bomber assigned to the 509th Bomb Wing (BW) experienced an in-flight malfunction during a routine training mission in the early hours of September 14. At 0030hrs it made an emergency landing back at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, during which it was damaged on the runway.
Following the accident, a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) was issued at 1524hrs UTC on the same day, putting in place a temporary flight restriction extending for six nautical miles around the base and up to an altitude of 8,000ft above ground level, which the NOTAM said was “to provide a safe environment for accident investigation.”
The base has confirmed that there were no injuries and no fire associated with the landing. An investigation is under way but at present no further details have been released. It is not yet known how serious the damage was to the aircraft.
The USAF only has a small fleet of 20 B-2As, all assigned to the 509th BW at Whiteman AFB. They are flown operationally by the Wing’s 13th Bomb Squadron (BS) ‘Grim Reapers’ and 393rd BS ‘Tigers.’ Two other units at Whiteman use the type for trials purposes – the 53rd Wing’s 72nd Test and Evaluation Squadron and the 57th Wing’s 325th Weapons Squadron.
The type has had a generally good safety record, only one of the 21 aircraft originally delivered having been lost. This was on February 23, 2008, when 89-0127 ‘WM’/‘Spirit of Kansas’ crashed on take-off at Andersen AFB, Guam. Both crew members ejected and survived with some ejection-related injuries. Investigation revealed that the aircraft’s air data system had input incorrect data into the flight control computers, which caused an un-commanded 30° nose-high pitch up and subsequent irrecoverable stall.
Another, 88-0332 ‘WM’/‘Spirit of Washington,’ suffered a serious fire during engine start-up on February 26, 2010, also at Andersen AFB, which caused extensive damage. However, with no possibility of building a replacement and due to the high value of the aircraft, it was rebuilt over the following four years. Initial work took place at Andersen to make the aircraft flyable again, then on August 18, 2011, it was ferried to its birthplace at Palmdale, California, for the remainder of the rebuild to be carried out. It was finally completed after three years and nine months, after which it was delivered back to Whiteman, where it finally carried out its first post-rebuild training flight on December 16, 2013.