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18 Things You Never Knew About The B-52 Stratofortress

It's big. It's ugly. And it's one of the most adaptable aircraft flown in the past 60 years.


1) The B-52's first flight was April 15, 1952 - over 63 years ago.

Wikipedia

2) The B-52 was designed to carry nuclear weapons during the Cold War, but it has only carried conventional ordnance in combat.

USAF

3) There were huge leaps in aviation happening when the B-52 was being designed, and it went through 6 major redesigns during the 5 year design period. The YB-52 pictured below was the second-to-last major redesign.

Wikipedia

4) A B-52A was used to carry the North American X-15. The X-15 achieved the record for fastest manned powered aircraft, with a speed of Mach 6.72.

Wikipedia

5) There have been 744 B-52s built, but currently there are only 85 in active service, with 9 in reserve.

USAF

6) The B-52 can carry up to 70,000 pounds of ordnance, or the equivalent of 30 fully-loaded Cessna 172s.

Wikipedia

7) Production ended in 1962, which means the youngest B-52 is 53 years old.

USAF

8) The jet has a unique ejection system; the lower deck crew eject downward.

9) The B-52 is expected to serve until the 2040s. That's over 90 years of service.

USAF

10) In 1964, a B-52 configured as a testbed to investigate structural failures flew through severe turbulence, shearing off its vertical stabilizer. The aircraft was able to continue flying, and landed safely.

Wikipedia

11) The navigator and radar navigator sit in the lower deck of the aircraft. These are the two seats that eject downward.

Wikipedia

12) To comply with the SALT II Treaty requirements, cruise missile-capable aircraft had to be identifiable by spy satellites. To comply, the B-52 "G" models were modified with a curved wing root fairing.

Wings Over The Rockies Museum

13) Early models had cabin temperature problems; the upper-deck would get hot, because it was heated by the sun, while the navigation crew would sit on the cold fuselage floor.

Wikipedia

14) In 1961, a B-52G broke up in midair over Goldsboro, NC. Two nuclear bombs on board were dropped in the process, but didn't detonate. After the bombs were recovered, the Air Force found that five of the six stages of the arming sequence had been completed.

Wikipedia

15) In 1972, B-52 tail-gunner Albert Moore shot down a MiG-21 over Vietnam. It was the last recorded bomber-gunner to shoot down an enemy aircraft.

Texas Aviation Online

16) After the Soviet Union fell in 1991, 365 B-52s were destroyed under the START treaty. The aircraft were stripped of usable parts, chopped into 5 pieces with a 13,000 pound steel blade, and sold for scrap at 12 cents per pound.

Media Span Online

17) During Operation Desert Storm, B-52s delivered 40% of the weapons dropped from the air.

USAF

18) Currently, B-52s cost $70,000 per flight hour to operate. And while they might be ugly, they're still a pretty amazing and adaptable aircraft.

USAF

Colin Cutler

Colin is a Boldmethod co-founder, pilot and graphic artist. He's been a flight instructor at the University of North Dakota, an airline pilot on the CRJ-200, and has directed development of numerous commercial and military training systems. You can reach him at colin@boldmethod.com.

Images Courtesy:

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