(Photo: Master Sgt. Greg Steele/USAF) – Usually when old military aircraft fly into the famed “boneyard” at Davis-Monthan AFB in Arizona they don’t come out under their own power. We say usually because for the first time in history one actually has and the story is pretty great. The plane in question if a mighty B-52 which has served as a cornerstone of the USAF for decades and is still part of the arsenal that the military has at hand. There are levels of preparedness that the military needs to maintain with certain amounts of equipment and other supplies. The saving of this B-52 was spurred on by those quotas because another plane suffered a bad fire and was essentially rendered useless. When the Air Force went looking around they discovered a pretty good candidate sitting in storage right there in Arizona. The plane, Ghost Rider was brought out, gone through and flown to Louisiana where it will be parked next to the burned plane and up fitted with the more recent equipment that it had received over the years.
Obviously we are simplifying this process because it takes some guts to get in a plane that has not flown for seven years, inspect it as best is possible, and then take to the skies for a cross country flight. Oh, did we mention that they did it with none of the modern guidance equipment that people use these days? That stuff had been pillaged for use in another plane (hey, it was in the junkyard, right?) so they flew by dead reckoning to Louisiana. The crew was also kept to a minimum for obvious reasons. If there were ever an issue, minimizing the risk to people’s lives is paramount. Finally, they flew with the gear down the whole time and at lower speeds and altitudes as the plane would normally see, all in the name of keeping the recently slumbering aircraft happy.
The pilot was Col. Keith Schultz and he had some great quotes in the story we were tipped off to:
“It’s the first time we’ve ever brought any of the B-52s out of the boneyard.”
“initially, you have that apprehension when a plane goes seven years without flying. It’s been sitting in the desert. In the back of your mind you’re thinking ‘what can go wrong?’ But the day prior, we started up the engines, we taxied the aircraft, we checked out the systems. And when I took it down the runway to take off there was an absolute assurance and calm that everything was going to work as properly as the aircraft they’re currently flying right now out there on the ramp.”
These guys sure have guts and confidence in their machines! The story is excellent and talks about the future for the saved plane as well as what’ll happen to the one that burned in the fire. It is a great read.
Talk about “snakes on a plane”… now THAT would have been a great story.
Sounds like they had to navigate like my father did for 20 years in the USAF flying B-47’s and RC-135’s.
Agreed Scott, My dad was a navigator on the KC-97 among other aircraft and navigated across the Atlantic using a sextant and Stars…….we have it so easy today!
Short story; I was an Engine Mechanic, afsc 43251 on KC97G, 43rd AREFS, DAVIS MONTHAN AFB 1956-1958. On a trip to Hickum the Nav a young Lt, was still on training status. The AC, was Standboard for the 43rd and was filling squares (training reqts) for the Lt. keeping him shooting the stars more than necessary, keeping him up on the sextant most of the time. In that position he couldn’t see the flight instruments so he didn’t know when we got in range of the Oahu Omni (VOR). The exchange between the AC and Nav got a little tense when the Nav gave longs & lats that would have put us off track with Hickum by about 30nm. The last thing I heard the AC say was that ‘you better come down and look out the window because I think that airport straight ahead might be somewhere on Ohau Island!’
Now-a-days, EVERYBODY has a GPS, I-Phone, or what-not. 🙂
The Air Force’s version of Road Kill.
I was just thinking the same thing.
They didn’t spill enough ATF for it to be roadkill
1. Did they use any zip ties?
2. Does a B52 have a hood you can take off when it overheats?
was the apu held on with a hose clamp?
Has anyone watched a B52 taking off? That’s a sight to see.
In the ’60s when we still used ‘dirty’ Jet Fuel a real sight to see was a MITO, (minimum interval takeoff) of 15 B-52s. On the takeoff roll even before the first plane broke ground the second was already on the way, full throttle with ADI on, black smoke so thick the guy behing him couldn’t even see the airplane ahead, only the black smoke. I lived in FHA housing near the end of the runway, Ramey AFB and during an alert when they started engines all of the wives would get the word(somehow) and go out and hang on the chainlink perimeter fence to watch. It was truly a WOW sight to see.
And…take in the clothes off the line.
It was just recently announced that the B-52 fleet would be getting an engine upgrade which would make them last until 2040.
Amazing – this plane will have been in service for 88 years in 2040.
They’ve been saying it for years, not happening anytime soon, they’re scheduled that far out anyways.
worked on the BAE Building in Mojave, CA and met a few of the pilots who flew in retired planes that were to be rebuilt, outfitted to be flown remotally then used for target practice. Must take some balls.
If there’s any plane that you can pull out of mothballs and take to the sky it’s a B52. The only other would maybe be an A10 Warthog.
Not the first?? Maybe the first B52, but not the first…click the link.
CAF B29 “Fifi” was flown out of China Lake scrap yard in 1971.
This is the first to be flown out of the one in Arizona.
In about 1957-1958 B24 “STRAWBERRY BITCH” flew from DM to Wright Pat. I was there.
I’ll bet someone had a handheld GPS in there.
Now-a-days, EVERYBODY has a GPS, I-Phone, or what-not. 🙂
When the last B-2 Spirit Lands at the bone yard in Arizona; it WILL be a B-52 that carries the crew back to their base.
How long did it take to get the Buff ready to fly?
Let’s mention all the amazing maintainers that spent countless hours putting that beast back together, ops checking, re placing parts, just so these guys can get all the credit. Thanks USAF maintainers! <3
Amazing! BUFF lives!
I was last assigned to a B-52 Satellite base when they closed the unit due to the end of the cold war. I was being assigned to Carswell AFB but was tired of moving around with family. Was trying to decide if I should retire or move to Carswell. I was notified that the B-52 was going to be retired from the AF inventory in a couple of years. I elected to retire. That was 1976 and it is still flying.
As the assistant crew chief of B-52H 0061 Kincheloe AFB, MI., I did dozens of preflight inspections and launches from May of 1973 til November of 1975. I never liked the military aspect of being a United States Airman, but I sure enjoyed going to work on the flightline every night at midnight. Rain, snow, 30 below, it didn’t matter, that thing was flying at 8 am if we had to wake up half the barracks to get it done. During the hour and a half prior to takeoff, the flight crew inspected the aircraft and did the preflight briefing with the ground crew chief and assistant. We’d get the engines fired up, check the stabilizers and flaps, pull the chocks, marshal that big, old catfish looking mother out to the taxiway and hit the Aircraft Commander with a salute straight outta basic training. The only thing that ever beat that rush of pride and adrenaline was doing it in the middle of the night on the alert pad with the claxton blaring, lights flashing everywhere and 100 guys rushing to where they needed to be to make 16 airplanes taxi out and be ready to hit the runway in 10 minutes. It wasn’t taking fire from Charlie, but the experiences have stayed with me my entire life and every tense moment since then has been a piece of cake. Sorry for getting long winded, but thinking about this shit gets me wound like a top and I simply buzz with excitement.
The B-52 is one of man’s greatest mechanical achievements and having it in our military arsenal, I’m sure, still gives any potential adversary pause in knowing that we could, indeed, bomb them back to the stone age. I’d hate to ever have that happen, but having been part of it as a young man still makes me proud to be a “SAC Trained Killer”.
Great story Pete !!! Mine was F-4’s in Nam, same thrill.