Happy Birthday To The BUFF! The Boeing B-52 Stratofortress First Flew On This Day In 1952!

Happy Birthday To The BUFF! The Boeing B-52 Stratofortress First Flew On This Day In 1952!

April 15th, 1952 is a significant day for aviation. It is the day that the YB-52 prototype aircraft, the predecessor to the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress bomber, first flew with A. “Tex” Johnston at the controls. It’s been sixty-seven years since the BUFF, as it’s much better known, has been flying the skies. The amazing thing isn’t that a 67-year-old aircraft is still an active part of the military service, but that it’s projected lifetime is currently scheduled out to somewhere past 2050. There is a good potential that a 100-year-old B-52 might still be flying in the future. And that chance is pretty good, considering that the B-52 has outlived the North American XB-70 Valkyrie prototype platform and is expected to outlive the Rockwell B-1 Lancer, and the Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit, aircraft that were designed to surpass the B-52 in technology and capability.

From it’s early days as a Cold War aircraft that was usually on SAC alert duty and potentially armed with nuclear warheads to it’s role as a bomber in both high level and low level forms, the Stratofortress has been able to meet the mission. The platform is also the last aircraft to have a confirmed manned machine gun kill, from the tail gunner position during the Vietnam War. The big bomber your grandfather knew as the deterrent to the Russians became the vital asset to war fighters up and through today’s conflicts, including the Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.

100 years on…that will be something to see, a Big, Ugly Fat F**ker flying around a century removed from the world from which it was born. It’s an amazing testament to the engineers and designers of the day.

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3 thoughts on “Happy Birthday To The BUFF! The Boeing B-52 Stratofortress First Flew On This Day In 1952!

  1. Piston Pete

    The same technology that brought us the venerable Harley-Davidson Panhead. I was 3rd wiper, then assistant crew chief on B-52H 0060 from May 1973-Nov.1975 at Kincheloe AFB, Michigan. I hated being in the Air Force (I’m pathologically anti-authoritarian), but loved being part of launching that mutha every morning at 7:30 AM. My favorite part was marshaling the plane off the pad and saluting the crew as they taxied out (my anti-authoritarian nature did not extend to the flight crew, just all the Flys buzzing around the flightline making themselves look good at the expense of the guys doing the actual work). I also enjoyed doing alert duty, 3 days on, 2 days off, then 2 days on and 3 days off, hanging around waiting for the claxton to go off. At one point I’d spent so much time on the alert pad that one day when I wondered into the bomber branch to check my schedule, the new branch chief didn’t even know who I was. Lotsa mechanical mayhem ensued over the years. I rarely worked recovery but was called to duty on 2 memorable occasions. Once when she got blown into the median between runways during landing (we cleaned dirt, mud and grass outta the wheelwells for 12 hours) and the other when she flew into a flock of geese (blood and feathers everywhere). Eight engine replacements and a good steam bath and she was ready to go again the next morning. Nearly indestructible and very forgiving in flight. I still get major wood when I see one fly, which is rare these days, (the flying and the wood). Thanks for doing this story, Bryan, makes me remember what it felt like to have adrenaline coming outta my ears. I hope they fly forever.

  2. gary

    One of the best stories is how Boeing went to Washington with a design that had straight wings. The Air Force said no straight wings. Beoing engineers went back to the hotel room, and overnight, redesigned the wings into the aircraft we all see today. We stand on the shoulders of giants.

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