HICKAM AIR FORCE BASE, Hawaii (AP) — The Air Force on Thursday said the first crash of a B-2 stealth bomber was caused by moisture in sensors and estimated the loss of the aircraft at $1.4 billion.

The crash probably could have been avoided if knowledge of a technique to evaporate the moisture had been disseminated throughout the B-2 program, said Maj. Gen. Floyd L. Carpenter, who headed an accident investigation board.

The "Spirit of Kansas" abruptly pitched up, rolled and yawed to the left Feb. 23 before plunging to the ground at Andersen Air Force Base on the island of Guam. Both pilots ejected safely just after the left wing made contact with the ground in the first crash since the maiden B-2 flights nearly 20 years ago.

Water distorted preflight readings in three of the plane's 24 sensors, making the aircraft's control computer force the B-2 to pitch up on takeoff, resulting in a stall and subsequent crash.