B-2 Made Emergency Landing In Colorado with all 4 engine offline. Listen to Audio recording of Colorado Springs Airport tower
A U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit stealth bomber made an emergency landing on Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018, at the Colorado Springs Airport following an unspecified in-flight incident.
The aircraft would have to land immediately and the closest airport was in Colorado Springs. Hours after safely touching down the most expensive aircraft ever made was photographed sitting alone on the apron at Peterson AFB, which is colocated with the civilian airport. It was a strange sight indeed, especially considering these aircraft traditionally only fly out of four highly secure air bases on anything that comes close to resembling a regular basis. What brought the B-2 crew’s mission to a sudden halt remained a mystery throughout the day, but now we know at least one major cause.
A number of local photographers have posted photos of the aircraft sitting on the tarmac at the joint-use civilian/military airport located about 12 miles from downtown Colorado Springs.
Audio recorded of Colorado Springs Airport tower from the time of the incident has emerged on Facebook. In it, the controller states that the jet has lost its #4 engine. In addition, the crew could not communicate with the tower directly, which could be a sign of additional complications. In the end, the most advanced aircraft ever put into production ended up getting cleared to land via a visual signal from the tower’s handheld light gun.
The tower controller in the audio relays that, “I’m just relaying through Denver Center, all of the information, but as far as I now it is just the number 4 engine out”. Tower control finally says that he is unable to talk to the aircraft and is going to use a light gun to signal the aircraft, “But I am unable to talk to them. I’m just going to give them the light gun.” What appears to be an additional controller in the communications says, “No, they were unable to switch radio [frequencies] to me. I could only give them the light gun.”
Sometimes you need luck as an aviation photographer. I happened to be in Colorado Springs on the day a B-2 from @Whiteman_AFB is forced to make an emergency landing there. Here it is on the platform at @PeteAFB. #B2 #Stealth #Emergency #ColoradoSprings #EngineFailure pic.twitter.com/aqCbp4ZYtP
— Rob van Disseldorp Photography (@RobV_Photos) October 24, 2018
Emergency response team on the scene provided the pilot with oxygen, according to the reports but the reason for administering oxygen is unclear and subject to speculations.
On the other side, analysis of the (unusual) back shots of the aircraft: the U.S. Air Force usually prevents shorts at the rear of the aircraft.
“Photos taken of the B-2 on the ramp in Colorado show the aircraft’s auxiliary air inlet doors open on the left side and closed on the right. This is unusual. We don’t know if the right-side inlet doors were stuck closed during landing—they are open during terminal phases of flight—or if the left side failed to close upon shutting down,” Tyler Rogoway at The War Zone noticed.
As of Wednesday afternoon, on October 24th, plane spotters in the area have since reported the B-2 is “gone”. The aircraft was not seen departing the airport so it is probable it has been moved discreetly to an indoor hangar.
An Air Force statement from Brig. Gen. John J. Nichols, 509th Bomb Wing commander, read, “Our aviators are extremely skilled; they’re trained to handle a wide variety of in-flight emergencies in one of the world’s most advanced aircraft and they perfectly demonstrated that today.”
Numerous media outlets and local news reports have said the two crewmembers on board the aircraft were not injured in the incident.
The incident is unusual since there are only 18 known B-2s currently in operation with one additional aircraft allocated for dedicated testing purposes (and one crashed 10 years ago). The 18 operational aircraft are flown by the historic U.S. Air Force 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman AFB, Missouri.
The unit is descended from the 509th Composite Group, the only aviation unit in the world to operationally employ nuclear weapons in combat using B-29 Superfortresses during the 1945 airstrikes on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The 509th Bomb Wing and its Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit are critical U.S. strategic strike assets. The loss of one aircraft, even if temporary, reduces the global precision low-observable strike capability by 5.5%. Because the aircraft has previously initiated ultra-long range strikes directly from their home base at Whiteman AFB, this reduction in capability is noteworthy.
The B-2 was initially directed to runway 17L but actually landed on runway 35R, a runway at 6,134 feet of elevation that is 13,500 feet long, the longest runway available at Colorado Springs Airport.