$2.2 BILLION STEALTH BOMBER CRASHES ON GUAM

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Injured pilot bound for military hospital in Hawaii

By Lacee A.C. Martinez

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Feb. 25, 2008) – One of two pilots aboard the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber that crashed at Andersen Air Force Base Saturday remains in stable condition at the Guam U.S. Naval Hospital. The pilot is expected to be taken to Tripler Medical Center in Hawaii, said Tech Sgt.Thomas Czerwinski of the Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs Office.

The other crew member was treated and released.

The bomber's debris remained at Andersen's runway yesterday. The crashed bomber was one of four B-2 Spirit Steath bombers deployed to Andersen.

The bombers on Guam were scheduled to return to Missouri now that six B-52s from the 96th Bomb Wing at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., have arrived to replace them.

A team of military officers is conducting the investigation into the crash. There still is no official word on the cause of the disaster. The bomber crashed shortly after takeoff Saturday morning. Two pilots were able to eject before impact.

"The main part of the aircraft is intact," Czerwinski said. "As far as when it's going to clear, it all has to do with investigation."

In the meantime, the island's local government continues to accommodate incoming military planes while Andersen's runway is closed for the investigation.

"We are open to any other traffic that comes our way, (including) anything that's slated for Andersen," Guam International Airport Authority airport operations superintendent Juan Reyes said.

Of the four military aircraft that had to land at the island's civilian airport, two had already left yesterday, with one scheduled to leave today, Reyes added.

Of the 21 B-2 bombers in the Air Force's fleet, four were recently deployed to Guam from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri. The bombers were on rotation back to the mainland air base when the crash occurred, Czerwinski said. The remaining bombers were still at Andersen yesterday with no word on their departure.

The Air Force has been rotating B-2 bombers through Guam since 2004, along with B-1 and B-52 bombers. The rotations are designed to boost the U.S. security presence in the Asia-Pacific region.

Saturday's crash was the first for the B-2 bomber since it was unveiled in 1988, according to the Air Force.

An Air Force fact sheet priced each B-2 Spirit bomber at about $1.2 billion, but according to the Government Accountability Office Web site, each plane can cost up to $2.2 billion. The distinctive B-2 is described as a "multi-role bomber" that blends stealth technology with a highly efficient aerodynamic design.

Saturday's accident was the second time an aircraft from Andersen has crashed in the last two weeks. On Feb. 12, a Navy EA-6B Prowler crashed into the water about 20 miles northeast of Ritidian Point. Three crew members were rescued by helicopters within a half-hour.

The cause of the Prowler crash hasn't been released.

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