Entire B-2 fleet grounded after in-flight malfunction

B-2 Spirit of California takes off during a base exercise, April 9, 2014, at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo. The B-2’s low-observable, or “stealth,” characteristics give it the unique ability to penetrate an enemy’s most sophisticated defenses and threaten its most valued, and heavily defended, targets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Bryan Crane)

Salvador Hernandez

Los Angeles Times

The B-2 stealth bomber, whose memorable swooshing flights over the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl began 26 years ago, won’t be kicking off the annual New Year’s events in Pasadena come Jan. 2, military officials said.

Citing safety concerns after an emergency at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, Air Force officials announced the entire fleet of B-2 stealth bombers would be grounded until they could be inspected.

“Our number one concern is safety and security of our personnel and fleet,” U.S. Air Force Col. Daniel Diehl said in a statement. “We deeply regret having to make this decision so close to the event.”

The decision to ground the plane will mean 2023 will be the first time it will not be a part of the Tournament of Roses Parade since it was added in 1997, flying low over the 5.5-mile parade route to kick off the annual celebration. (There was no parade in 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.)

Officials had considered making the B-2’s first appearance on New Year’s 1997 a surprise, but decided at the last minute to announce it would be flying over Pasadena.

The grounding of the fleet followed a Dec. 10 incident in which officials said a B-2 Spirit “experienced an in-flight malfunction during routine operations” and was damaged on the runway during an emergency landing.

No injuries were reported, but the incident remains under investigation.

Air Force officials said B-1B Lancer bombers from Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota would “carry on the tradition” this year.

“The Pasadena Tournament of Roses is honored that the U.S. Air Force will once gain soar over the Rose Parade,” a spokesperson for the Rose Parade said in a statement. “We are looking forward to kicking off 2023 with the 28th Bomb Wing, Ellsworth AFB-B-1B Lancer Bomber and turning the corner into a new year.”

Air Force officials said the stealth bomber would return for the 2024 Rose Parade.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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