The runway at the US military refuelling and tactical base on the UK Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia is expected to be returned to operational status this weekend after the Rockwell B-1B strategic bomber that made a wheels-up landing on Monday has been cleared by the island's port heavy lift crane.
The incident (pictured below) left the aircraft, weighing around 180t, stranded on the atoll's runway. As the backbone of the supersonic bomber was not damaged in the landing, the decision to move the aircraft and attempt a repair was taken.
The B1 was flying in from the continental USA and was swapping out with Boeing B-52s based at Diego Garcia.
Experts at the base used a heavy-lift crane currently in the port area, in conjunction with lifting bags to raise the B-1 and lower its landing gear. In order to move the crane from the dock, it had to be disassembled, moved, reassembled, levelled and tested.
In the interim, flight operations were limited to emergency only and other passenger and cargo flights were cancelled. Only medical evacuation flights would have been permitted if necessary. Additionally, the B-1 would have been removed in a less sensitive manner if there had been a critical bombing mission for teh other bombers based on the island.
A US military investigation has been launched. No injuries to crew or ground personnel were reported.