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Air Force Grounds B-1B Bombers to Inspect Crew-Ejection Systems

October 08, 1987|Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Air Force on Wednesday grounded its fleet of 68 B-1B bombers for a brief inspection of the plane's ejection system, following a recent crash in which only three of six crewmen on the aircraft were able to escape.

In a statement, the service's Strategic Air Command said that "this precautionary inspection is an outgrowth of the Sept. 28 accident" at a training range in eastern Colorado. The bomber crashed after two of its engines reportedly were damaged by birds.

The inspections, to take about two hours for each plane, were beginning immediately so that the planes can be returned to service soon, officials said.

"The Strategic Air Command is performing a precautionary, one-time inspection of each B-1B aircraft's emergency escape system prior to the aircraft's next flight," the statement said.

Sources said last week that the Air Force was concerned because, according to initial reports, at least four and perhaps all six of the men aboard the bomber that crashed should have been able to bail out.

The three who ejected escaped with minor injuries; the others went down with the plane and were killed.

The B-1B has four ejection seats for the four primary crew members, but additional passengers have to bail out through hatches in the plane's belly. The bomber that crashed was carrying six men because it was on a training flight and instructors were on board.

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