Watch as a $1.4 billion B-2 Spirit bomber crashes and explodes on takeoff at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, February 23, 2008.
The crash was caused by water in the aircraft's sensors. Moisture in three port transducer units "distorted data introduced by a B-2 Spirit's air data system" which led to flawed information entering the bomber's flight control computers. The aircraft was reacting to inaccurate airspeed and a "perceived" negative angle of attack. This resulted in an "uncommanded 30 degree nose-high pitch-up on takeoff."
Major Ryan Link and Captain Justin Grieve, the aircraft's two pilots, were unable to regain control and safely ejected just as the aircraft stalled and its left wing impacted the ground. Link and Grieve both suffered injuries during ejection, with Grieve suffering compression fractures to his spine.
The report points to the inaccurate readings as contributing factors, adding that ineffective communication of critical information about a technique used to remove moisture from the sensors also contributed. It's possible that all the pilots had to do to avert the accident was turn on the pitot heat prior to performing air data calibrations. But the suggested technique was not part of checklist procedures.
It was the first-ever B-2 crash and followed 75,000 hours of loss-free service.