By BLAKE NICHOLSON, Associated Press
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — An Air Force investigation has concluded that birds and mechanical issues — not pilot error — caused the crash of a B-52 bomber in Guam a year ago.
The bomber from Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota aborted takeoff during a routine training mission the morning of May 19, 2016, and caught fire after leaving the runway. None of the seven crew members were injured, but the $112 million plane was destroyed.
The pilot saw birds in the area during takeoff at the same time that cockpit instruments indicated a loss of thrust necessary to get the plane aloft, Air Force Global Strike Command said in a recent statement about the results of its investigation. It isn't known whether there was an actual bird strike.
"I don't think they found any evidence, but the plane was burned up," Global Strike Command spokeswoman Carla Pampe said Monday.
The pilot aborted takeoff, and when the plane landed its drag chute failed and the plane's brake limits were exceeded, officials said.
"The speed of the aircraft was basically too fast" for the equipment to work properly, Pampe said. The mechanical problems do not indicate any larger issues among the B-52 fleet, she said.
Pampe also said the pilot "followed the technical orders for the indications that the pilot had."
The bomber was assigned to the 69th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, which is part of the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot Air Force Base. It was deployed to Guam as part of the military's continuous bomber presence in the Asia-Pacific region. Guam is a U.S. territory 3,700 miles southwest of Hawaii.
Minot Air Force Base declined comment on the report, referring a call to Global Strike Command.