From an article by Eliot Marshall in Science magazine (Jan. 29):
Three B-1B instructors and three students took off at 7:57 a.m. on 28 September for a simulated nuclear attack near LaJunta, Colorado -- their first sortie. They were flying low around the second turn on a plotted course when the pilot, Captain Lawrence Haskell, saw a "white blur" streaking toward the right side of the plane. "The crew heard a loud bang . . . and the aircraft began to shudder and made a groaning and grinding sound."
Afterwards investigators concluded that a bird hit an unreinforced section below the right wing near the engine intake. Closing in at 600 miles per hour, the bird penetrated a 4-inch space where fuel and hydraulic control lines come together. A fire began and, within seconds, the airplane began rolling uncontrollably to the right. After pulling up to 7700 feet and attempting to right the plane, the pilot triggered the ejection system that is supposed to fire four of the six seats out the roof. But the copilot's seat did not work. He died; the other three lived. The two remaining crew members in the rear seats did not have time to bail out the bottom. "The aircraft was totally destroyed."
. . . The Air Force suspects the damage was done by a 15-pound pelican, common in the area near the bombing run. Because B-1Bs are designed to fly low and fast, they are more likely to meet birds than other aircraft, a fact apparently overlooked by designers. There are some indications that the hydraulic lines were not well placed or well protected. The fleet will be reinforced with Kevlar deflector panels, a task that should be completed by the end of the year.