B-1B Flights Paused at Ellsworth AFB As Crash Investigation Continues

B-1 Ellsworth
A B-1B on the ground at Ellsworth AFB, SD. (Image credit: USAF)

Flights of the B-1B Lancer supersonic bombers are paused while the investigation continues into last week’s crash at Ellsworth Air Force Base.

As already reported last week, a U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer bomber assigned to the 28th Bomber Wing crashed at approximately 5:50 p.m.on Jan.4, 2024 at Ellsworth Air Force Base. The four aircrew members ejected safely. Since then, the flights of the BONEs (as the Lancers are nicknamed) at the base in South Dakota have been paused pending investigation, Colonel Derek Oakley, commander of the 28BW told in a video released on Jan. 8, 2024.

“On the afternoon of Thursday, January 4th, two Air Force B-1B Lancers assigned to Ellsworth Air Force Base conducted a local training sortie as a formation,” Oakley said in the video message. “The lead aircraft landed successfully and the second aircraft crashed at approximately 5:50 p.m. during the landing phase. The crash site is contained to Ellsworth Air Force Base. Our firefighters responded quickly extinguishing the fire and ensuring the safety of those nearby”.

“There were four air crew on board and all four ejected safely . Our medics responded promptly with ambulance services and tended to the air crew. Three of the air crew were treated on base for minor injuries and released and one airman is currently being treated at a local hospital for non life threatening injuries due to Privacy Act in HIPAA. I will not be releasing the names of those affected. At this time, no other military members or civilians on the ground were affected throughout the following days, we ensured the safety and security of the crash site to continue to preserve the well being of the base”

“Flying operations were paused on January 4th to ensure the safety of our airmen and airfield. We are carefully assessing checklists and safety procedures to resume flight operations when safe to do so. On Saturday, a local safety team began identifying and preserving evidence. As of this morning, an air force assigned safety team is on station to begin the thorough investigation process to identify the cause of the mishap . This process can take from weeks to months to complete the purpose of convening a safety investigation board is to prevent future mishaps.”

The second process is convening an accident investigation board to conduct a legal investigation to inquire into the facts and circumstances surrounding the accident, to prepare a publicly releasable report and to preserve all available evidence . I will not speculate on the cause of the mishap and will wait for the investigative process to be completed . Losing an aircraft is difficult , but I cannot over emphasize that we have four safe air crew who are surrounded by their loving families , Ellsworth airmen in our local community . Lastly , I would like to thank every team Ellsworth member and the local community for being instrumental in the response during these difficult times. Their professionalism is what allows us to recover quickly from moments . Like the one we are currently experiencing additional information we receive will be released as it becomes available again . Thank you for your continued support as we work to learn more about what occurred.”

Satellite images of the base in the aftermath of the incident seem to suggest the aircraft touched down in the so-called pre-threshold area (marked with chevron markings, not suitable for normal use by aircraft) and then veered off the runway ending its run in the grass to the left of the tarmac on its belly.

A photo purportedly showing the B-1 covered with foam on the ground has also been posted online.

Ellsworth AFB is with Dyess AFB in Texas one of the two Bones bases. The Air Force started divesting the B-1 in 2021, decreasing the active fleet size from 62 to 45 aircraft in accordance with the National Defense Authorization Act. The service said that, of the 17 aircraft, four would be required to remain in a reclaimable condition that is consistent with Type 2000 recallable storage, so it is possible that one could be resurrected to replace the crashed bomber and preserve the 45 aircraft fleet.

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.