United States Air Force (USAF)’s B-1B Lancer strategic bomber fleet is set to return to flying operations after being grounded for four weeks, according to media reports.
The fleet was grounded after defects were discovered in the bomber’s emergency escape system related to drogue chutes in the aircraft’s ACES II ejection seats.
“Inspections and maintenance are completed. The aircraft will return to flying status,” according to a statement released by Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC) on April 23.
AFGSC chief Gen Timothy Ray ordered a Time Compliance Technical Order for inspections of all B-1 egress systems following the discovery of three issues over the past year.
In May 2018, a B-1B serial 86-0109 of the 7th Bomb Wing from Dyess AFB, Texas, made a cautionary diversion to Midland International Air and Space Port. The diversion was made following an engine flameout on a routine sortie. Photographs on the ground at Midland showed fire damage around one of the engine compartments, while the escape hatch above the weapon systems officer’s position was missing. Investigations followed and it was discovered that problems with ejection seat components.
“The aircraft are still safe to fly and we are confident that this stand-down has resulted in increased safety within the B-1B fleet,” Maj Gen Jim Dawkins, commander of the 8th Air Force said commenting on the latest grounding.
The reason behind this appears to be related to the rigging of the drogue chute and was said to be a ‘procedural’ issue rather than a problem with the seat itself, which triggered the 2018 grounding, the reports stated further.