BARKSDALE AFB, LA (KSLA) - A B-1 Crew received the Distinguished Flying Cross in July for their actions in an in-flight emergency on in May 1, 2018.
"They were absolutely flawless in an execution of a dier emergency, " said 8th Air Force Vice Commander, Col. Richard Collins about the crew, "It was just an awesome thing and very appropriate for the circumstances."
Commanding the aircraft that day was Louisiana native, Major Christopher Duhon. Duhon is the Chief of Future Operations at Air Forces Strategic – Operations Division at Barksdale Air Force Base and the 28th instructor pilot at the time.
No stranger to the skies, Duhon prepped as he would for any other training flight with the crew from Dyess Air Force Base near Abilene, Texas.
"We had to do air refueling, some air maneuvers, some formation flight maneuvers with two B-1's mainly to train the other brand new pilot on how to fly formation off the B-1 and then we're supposed to low level mission down in the south west border of Texas and Mexico."
At some point during the flight, something went wrong.
"The nose kind of yawed off to the left which is kind of odd where we were and I thought that was odd, and that was only a split second or so and then I started seeing master cautions on my caution panel."
Sparking a scenario they train for, yet never hope to become reality.
"The whole panel lit up and we started hearing the fire tones," he said.
Their B-1 caught fire, and like clockwork Duhon's training kicked in.
"In my mind I'm like 'Yep this is what's going on, this how we treat this," recalled Duhon, "I know what the next step is if the fire doesn't go out, then we have to eject, so we're just waiting and waiting and waiting."
The fire didn’t go out.
"My mind was made up it was time to get out the aircraft," he said, "I ask everybody if they're ready and everybody responds with the ready around the horn, and I say to Tom who sitting right in back of me at the time, I say 'OSO eject,' so Tom pulls his handles and I hear the cabin depressurize and the big thud of the hatch leaving and I hear a bunch of screaming and all that comes through is it didn't work, it didn't work."
The ejection system failed. Forcing the crew the to change their plans.
At this point the aircract was near Big Bend National Park in southwest Texas, an estimated 150 miles, about a 30 minute flight, up to Midland, Texas.
Military times obtained a copy of the audio from air traffic controller as the bomber headed towards their runway.
“You have the tones and everything against your mind body and soul is to not be an aircraft that has these tones going off,” explained Duhon.
As the crew headed to Midland, the second B-1 flies helplessly nearby.
“All I know is we need to get to Midland that was really our only option, I’m not going get out with these other guys in.”
They land, nearly 30 minutes later.
“Shut down everything, run off the runway and get out the aircraft as a fire truck starts hosing down the right side of the aircraft which was kind of toasted of that point.”
Once on solid ground, Duhon immediately called his wife.
“(I) Said hey there’s been something that’s really bad, you’ll probably hear something about it just know that we’re safe and call mom dad.”
In July, each crew member received the Distinguished Flying Cross for their professionalism and composure during what could have been a catastrophic event.
“I was in the right place at the right time to be able to bring the gifts and the training that I have an order to make that decision and anybody else could’ve made.”
Major Duhon is set to return to the sky in a few weeks for the first time since May.