2008: Last April, a U.S. B-1B bomber, after landing in Qatar (the Persian Gulf),
crashed into a concrete barrier while taxiing. The bomber caught fire, and was
destroyed, as well as damaging two nearby C-130J transports. Total damage was
$346 million. The bomber crew escaped unscathed, and no one else was injured.
The aircraft had just returned from an 11 hour mission over Afghanistan. The
aircraft was still carrying some 2,000 pound bombs and 20 tons of fuel.
investigation determined that the crash was the result of two hydraulic systems
failing, one after another, causing the moving B-1B to lose its brakes and
steering, and hit the barriers. The emergency parking brake failed as well. The
collision spilled fuel, which caught fire. Two unexploded bombs were recovered
after the fire was put out.
earlier, another B-1B collided with two fire trucks after making an emergency
landing on the Pacific island of Guam. There was no fire that time, but the
damage amounted to $5.8 million. Accidents like this happen in peacetime,
although the air force did not indicate if the two equipment failures could
have been prevented by earlier maintenance on the aircraft.
the accident rate for military aircraft has fallen sharply (about 90 percent)
over the last half century, and about 80 percent in the last 30 years. Most of
that's because of advances in engineering and design of aircraft, but there's
also been an, at times obsessive, concern with flight safety by commanders.
This is one of those things that gets little media attention because it's good
news. Even many military pilots are unaware of this trend, and when hearing
stories about the old days, from older pilots, get the vague impression that
flying was more dangerous back then, or maybe these older guys were
exaggerating a bit. They aren't.