Monday, September 08, 2014

I got a chuckle...and then I said "wow".

I was reading an aviation magazine that someone graciously sent to me and there was an article in it about the problems of maintaining America's aging B-52 bomber fleet. It talked about airframe, engine and electronic issues and how many of the planes were older than the crews working on them.

The article was written in 1977, THIRTY-SEVEN YEARS AGO.

The last B-52 rolled off of the Boeing assembly line in 1962 and many of those B-52s are still flying today.
Currently these is no replacement aircraft in inventory or under development, so the B-52 fleet just keeps getting overhauled and modified.

And with upgrade and overhaul programs, the Air Force plans to keep flying them into 2040 and even beyond.

Think about that, will you? By 2040, the youngest airframe left would be 78 years old, with many over 80. That's like upgrading the B-17s from World War Two and using them to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan and other hotspots today, and still not having a replacement in mind.


  1. 20 - odd years back I saw a BUFF coming in to land at Carswell AFB in Ft Worth. It was coming straight at me, all 8 engines blowing black smoke, landing lights on. A-- Puckering sight, I'll tell you.
    Another trip to see the folks in West TX, I was passing through Abilene (Dyess AFB) and at least a DOZEN B-1's vectored all over the sky around us. Awesome sight. They resembled a flock of pterodactyls, and we were prey... Something you probably couldn't see any other place on the planet right then.

  2. There are children of B52 pilots now flying the same aircraft their fathers flew. The longevity of these aircraft is amazing but a replacement is probably past due.

  3. Twenty years ago or so, I recall reading an article in the Air force magazine that ended with, "And the last B-1 and B-2 crews, flying their aircraft out to Davis-Monthan will deadhead back in a B-52."

  4. Anonymous11:56 AM

    Funny how 'older' technology from the first half of the 20th Century seems to keep on keepin' on!
    The B-52 and the 1911 are two examples.

    Yes, we truly live in a disposable age.

  5. I guess you could look at it as a "testament" to a great basic design.

    Some of the other old greybeards I worked with at Boeing had been on the B-52 program many years ago, and were recalled to teach the youngsters coming in as much as they could about the ins and outs of B-52 design, assembly, and maintenance.

  6. We Army guys love the B-52, the dump truck for bombs...I saw the damage that airplane did. Nothing like seeing the results on a Iraqi Motorized Division,'
    When I was a small fry I would see a B-52 lumbering down the runway at Warner Robbins smoke belching out of all its engines as she clawed for altitude. Very impressive airplane. Boeing builds them good

  7. Actually GRANDSONS of the original pilots are now flying them... And there is STILL not an aircraft in the inventory that can match the bomb load of the BUFF...

  8. You know what they say about the BUFF...

    It has the power of ten locomotives, contains enough aluminum to make ten thousand trash cans, and each aircraft contains roughly ten miles of wire.

    It's flight characteristics have been likened to flying ten locomotives, pulling ten thousand trash cans on ten miles of wire.

    As long as the airframe is still airworthy, engines and avionics can be replaced.