Report on the B-1 crash landing

Report: Pilot error caused B-1 crash

Air Force Link:

Pilot error caused a B-1 Lancer to crash while landing on the runway at a forward-deployed location May 8, 2006, according to an aircraft accident investigation report released here Sept. 18.

This won’t be a surprise to MO readers. Unconfirmed reports in the comments section earlier this year indicated that pilot error was to blame. Also, the “forward-deployed location” is not undisclosed.

Investigators concluded the cause of the mishap was both pilots’ failure to lower the landing gear during the aircraft’s approach and landing. Contributing factors for the pilots’ failure to lower the landing gear were the co-pilot’s task oversaturation; the co-pilot’s urgency to complete a long mission; both pilots’ inattention to instrument readings and the descent/before landing checklist, and the co-pilot’s false belief the pilot had lowered the landing gear.

According to the report, the pilot unexpectedly turned over aircraft control to the co-pilot on the final approach. The pilot reported to the air traffic control tower that the landing gear was down despite the fact that the descent/before landing checklist was never completed and the landing gear was never lowered. The red warning light in the gear handle, indicating all landing gear was not down and locked, was illuminated for more than four minutes during the approach.

Additionally, at the time the aircraft landed, the three green position lights, which illuminate after the landing gear has locked in the down position, were not illuminated.

Post-landing pics here and here.


  1. Both are being given the opportunity to resign their commissions, right? Not to mention losing their wings…

  2. As a pilot I can tell you one of the great fears is of not putting the gear down. There is just no one else to blame put the pilot. I think that this flight originated out of Diego Garcia and flew to Afghanistan then went into a holding pattern waiting on target assignments from the ground then rotated out with another aircraft. The round trip flight is about 1,600 miles not including time on station. The real question is time on station. I say all of this to say that most likely the contributing factor to the pilot error was pilot fatigue. Having flown for 4 hours stopped worked for three hours on a job site and then fly four more back home you can really feel the fatigue and that is when you really have to recognize that you need extra concentration and stay ahead of the aircraft on you check list. One other question is did the control tower observe the B-1 on final approach and notice that the gear was not down? Wild Bill

  3. To Do: Groceries Cancel subscription to Playboy Pay rent Mow Lawn Give copilot some air time Remember to put gear down this time Well, five out of six ain’t bad.

  4. I was thinking fatigue as soon as I heard about this. Can the pilot and Co-pilot switch off sleeping during the less critical times of the mission? Or, pop some speed a half-hour prior to landing?

  5. This is why checklists exist. We know people make mistakes, get tired, forget to do things. So, there is a list of steps required prior to takeoff, landing, combat, etc. Ignoring the checklist is pretty much inexcusable I think. (Any comments from actual aviators?)

  6. From what I understand, the pilots can shut off the gear horn on the ground prox. system and they routinely do because it goes off frequently during low level missions. I guess it is cheaper to replace belly skins than to fix the ground proximity system. Trashing the careers of a couple of pilots is just a bonus.

  7. Yep, you’re on the money Nicholas. Not completing landing checks, or any checks really, is inexcusable. In addition, most pilots have their own personal last-minute checklist they go through in their head on late finals, namely: ‘three Greens, clear to land (do I have them?)’. These guys were way behind the aeroplane. And it’s not like the air traffic is exactly busy out there either.

  8. The mission of the airplane is to fly low level penetration missions to avoid radar. How can it fly low level on autopilot and have the ground prox. horn going off all the time? It just boggles the mind. Either the flight control system has no real idea if the airplane really can make it over the next ridge, or it is so poorly integrated that one system has no idea what is going on it the next one. Since this airplane has had integration issues its entire life, I’d say the latter is probably true. Remember when it couldn’t have both offensive and defensive electronics on at the same time? The B-1A was a cool airplane. The B-1B was a mistake. Of course, it’s always cheaper to blame the pilots.

  9. Not true. There was a UAV that went down not too long ago. I don’t recall which one. Anyway, the cause of the crash was that the operator’s station locked up. This wouldn’t normally be a big deal since all the operator had to do is switch to a new station, but when he made the switch he had to set all the controls to where they had been in the station that was now locked up. Apparently he didn’t set everything quite correctly and the bird lost power and crashed. It was operator error, obviously, because what could possibly be wrong with a system like that? It would cost money to fix the station plus someone who counts would have to admit to screwing up the design in the first place on the contractor side. On the government side, there’s that Colonel or General who would have to be called on the carpet for not adequately supervising the greedy contractor if it wasn’t the operator’s fault. Since none of that is going to happen, I say crucify the operator.

  10. It is not the pilots fault completly. Yes he did say that the gear was down, but that should be the copilots responsibility, as the handle is right in front of his knee. So if the pilot moved the handle then they were getting really cozy in the cockpit. Also it is a bright red light stareing you in the face. As to being tired enlisted are expected to work a minimum of 12 hours while deployed. Not counting turnover time. That is without sleeping and normally 6 days a week. Do we forget things? No because we have technical orders that we are required to follow while performing maintance. To Dfens yes it was origanally designed to fly terrain following, however they primarily fly high alt as it put less stress on the airframe and components. Also the changes from the A to B were the potato chips in the inlets, the overwing farings, and the egress system, I am forgeting some but those are the main differences asides from software that required the name change.

  11. Apparently there was a B52 on fire on the Hammer Head with EC’s in attendance during the B1 approach. Me thinks these guys were doin a little too much site seeing

  12. About the B-1 that crash landed at the ‘undisclosed’ FOL in ’06. Well this is all I know: I was at the smoke pit just in time to see a plane sliding across the runway with no landing gear extended and covered in flames with a big trail of flames behind it. I don’t work on B-1’s but if they have a similar landing gear warning system to the one used on the B-52H, then all they have to do is pull a circuit breaker, or hit a switch to silence the warning horn. I can tell you for sure that there was a B-52H with a small landing gear fire sitting on the taxiway. I believe the landing gear fire was already out by the time the B-1 crashed, but those boys were probably trying to rubber-neck at 200 something miles per hour. To correct some of the comments posted before mine: The B-1 was NOT returning from Afghanistan or Iraq. He was coming in from stateside. I know both copilot and pilot are to blame, but if someone must take more of the blame it should be the pilot. If I’m correct he’s the higher ranking of the two, and he’s the one flying the darn thing. I work with people everyday who enlisted into the military with nothing more than a GED and they work more physically exhausting jobs for 17-18 hours and I have yet to see any of them make as big a mistake as these two gentlemen with college degrees made. Forgot to put the landing gear down. Landing… landing gear… landing… landing gear… hmmm I can’t even comprehend how stupid one must be. That was the only crash landing I’ve ever seen and hopefully it’s the last and I’m glad they all made it out unhurt. Oh… by the way there is a golf course on DG.