The Air Force has inspected 34 of its B-1B bombers without finding more problems with a wing mechanism that malfunctioned earlier this week but has decided that a more extensive safety inspection is needed.
“We have decided to devise another type of inspection, a more thorough inspection in the same wing area, in the interests of safety to ensure we’re looking at everything we need to look at,” Col. Larry Greer, a spokesman for the Strategic Air Command, said Thursday.
The earlier malfunction caused the Air Force to ground its B-1B fleet on Tuesday as a precautionary measure.
“The stand-down (grounding) is still in effect for the time being,” Greer said.
The malfunction occurred Monday at Dyess Air Force Base in Texas during a routine preflight check by the pilots. The crew could not get the plane’s adjustable wings to move back and forth in synchronization, and, at one point, the left wing apparently moved too far forward and punctured the seam of a fuel tank inside the fuselage.
Pentagon spokesman Dan Howard said Thursday that the Air Force had removed the gear box that controls the movement or sweep of the left wing on that plane and sent it to the Sundstrand Corp., its maker, for a detailed analysis.
“The specific problem having to do with the wings operating out of sync fractured a coupling on a hard shaft that connects the gear boxes on the two wings,” Howard said. “But we don’t know yet if that was the first cause or a result of a mechanical failure in the gear box.”
The B-1B is the nation’s newest long-range bomber. To improve its performance, the plane has wings that can be swept forward or backward in flight. The wings are normally swept back for high-speed attack runs and forward for takeoffs and landings.