By Emelie Rutherford

Air Force investigators soon will start probing the late-February crash of a Northrop Grumman [NOC] B-2 bomber in the western Pacific, once a safety panel that convened the day of the accident finishes its work, a service spokesman said.

The forthcoming Accident Investigation Board (AIB) will ultimately create a report that will be released to the public, said Staff Sgt. Thomas Doscher, a spokesman for Air Combat Command (ACC), which is leading the crash investigation.

Both pilots of the B-2 ejected shortly before it crashed following take off at Andersen AFB in Guam on Feb. 23, according to an Air Force statement.

A Safety Investigation Board (SIB) began investigation the accident the same day, in order "to prevent future mishaps," Doscher said.

This board is made up of sundry officials–including pilots, maintenance personnel, and airframe specialists–from around the Air Force and Department of Defense, as well as civilian contractors, he said.

The SIB is lead by Brig. Gen. Joseph Mudd, vice commander of the 12th Air Force at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz.

An Accident Investigation Board will convene as soon as the SIB–which has roughly 30 days to do its work–is done, Doscher said.

Asked if it is safe to assume the AIB will begin its work 30 days after the Feb. 23 accident, Doscher said that timeframe is the "target."

"The SIB could wrap up its work before 30 days or it could ask for more time to investigate," Doscher said. "It’s not a race. The SIB will take the time they need to perform their investigation thoroughly and professionally."

The SIB’s report will not be released to the public, he said, though the AIB’s report will be.

"The purpose of an AIB is to provide a publicly releasable report of the facts and circumstances surrounding the accident, to include a statement of opinion on the cause or causes of the accident, to gather and preserve evidence for claims, litigation, disciplinary and adverse administrative actions, and for all other purposes," Doscher said.

The AIB will be made up of "a team of experienced officers and enlisted specialists who have particular expertise in Air Force operations, maintenance, and other Air Force specialties," Doscher said.

The AIB’s board president is Brig. Gen. Floyd Carpenter, vice commander of the 8th Air Force at Barksdale AFB, La.

The AIB also will have 30 days to return its assessment, meaning the report on the investigation could be available in late April.

The Feb. 23 crash was the first of a B-2, the Air Force said in a statement. A multi-role bomber, the B-2 is capable of delivering large payloads at great range and has been employed in combat operations in Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

The Air Force has a fleet of 21 B-2s.