The Modern Pilot News

Boeing B-52 Makes Oshkosh Debut

What’s it like to be the first to land a Boeing B-52H Stratofortress at EAA AirVenture? We asked Aircraft Commander Major Jeremy Holt, USAF-R, of the 93rd Bomb Squadron, 307th Bomb Wing at Barksdale AFB near Shreveport, LA, and longtime EAA member, about the classic eight engine strategic bomber into Oshkosh.

“I’m in the fourth generation of pilots who have flown the Stratofortress. This is the latest version, the B-52H, one of 102 units built in 1961 and 1962. I’ve been flying it for ten years. While being more than a half century old, it’s been updated with the latest equipment, so it’s still viable in most threat environments.”

Holt says the Air Force plans to keep the aircraft in service at least until 2040, making it the longest serving aircraft ever employed by the United States military. “No other aircraft comes close. It’s a tribute to Boeing’s engineering.” It’s also a testament to the quality and dedication of USAF Strategic Air Command’s maintenance pros.

B-52 first entered service in the 1950s, powered by eight 10,000 lb thrust [11,000 lb with water injection] Pratt & Whitney J-57 turbojets and having a 420,000 lb MTOW. Combat range was approximately 3,600 nm.

Compared to earlier models, the –H model was fitted with more fuel efficient, 17,000 lb, TF33-P-3 turbofans in place of the original J-57 turbojets. Basic operating weight is 192,000 lb and fuel capacity is 321,600 lb. As MTOW is limited to 488,000 lb, the aircraft cannot takeoff with maximum fuel, let alone max fuel and max weapons payload. Inflight refueling, though, allows the aircraft to be topped off by a tanker. Holt says that keeping the aircraft in close formation on the tanker while refueling, within a 10 ft square box, is one of the most challenging aspects of flying the aircraft.


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