For the second time in 12 months, the US Air Force has grounded its Rockwell B-1B Lancer bomber fleet over safety concerns with its ejection seat.
Air Force Global Strike Command ordered a safety stand-down of the B-1B Lancer fleet March 28. The service says that during a routine inspection potentially fleet-wide issues were identified with the rigging of the ejection seat drogue chute system. As a precautionary measure, the USAF directed an all-inclusive inspection of the entire egress system.
Rockwell B-1B bomber
This most-recent problem appears to be a procedural issue and not related to the previous problem with malfunctioning ejection seat components, says the USAF. In June 2018, the service suspended flights of the bomber for about a week-and-a-half following an emergency landing of a B-1B at Midland International Air and Space Port in Texas on 1 May. The aircraft had blown at least one of its escape hatches without launching its ejection seat. All four members of the crew landed safely.
“The safety stand-down will afford maintenance and aircrew flight equipment technicians the necessary time to thoroughly inspect each aircraft,” says the USAF. “As these inspections are completed and any issues are resolved, aircraft will return to flight.”
The B-1B is a strategic bomber that no longer is equipped to carry nuclear weapons. Instead, the USAF uses the B-1B in undefended airspace and to launch long-range missiles at targets on ground or at sea. The aircraft has also recently dropped precision bombs over Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.