flying the b-52

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Flying the B52 Part 1 Major Kong Tweet 216 Comments / 216 New B52G Early 1990s OK this is the big one. My big chance to share my experiences bore everyone with war stories. It was my privilege to fly one of the great classics of aviation. One that is still around today and may still be around even after I'm gone. I served as an aircraft commander on B52Gs from 1989 1992. This was an interesting time. The Cold War was nearing its end, but the Soviet Union was still around and Strategic Air Command bombers still sat nuclear alert. Then there was that little spat in the Middle East. New air defenses were making our lives tougher but B1s were just becoming operational and the B2 was still a dream. We were still the backbone of the bomber force in those days. We had to be good, damn good, because our planes were older than most of us flying them. We may have been best trained bomber force ever. This is a pretty big topic, so I'll talk more about the mission later. In this diary I just want to introduce you to the airplane. First off, it's not a "Stratofortress". Nobody called it a Stratofortress. It was, and will always be "The BUFF". If you don't know what that acronym means, I'll let you look it up. It's not a polite term. I flew the B52G, or the "G model". They're not around anymore. They were all retired around 1993. By treaty with the Russians they were all chopped into pieces so that they could never be put back into service. When I saw them being cut up on television I cried. The G was built between 1957 and 1959. It was an interim model between the earlier "tall tail" models and the H model, which are the only ones still flying. The "new" ones were built in 1960 by

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Flying the B-52

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  • FlyingtheB52Part1MajorKong

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    B52GEarly1990s

    OKthisisthebigone.Mybigchancetosharemyexperiencesboreeveryonewithwarstories.

    Itwasmyprivilegetoflyoneofthegreatclassicsofaviation.OnethatisstillaroundtodayandmaystillbearoundevenafterI'mgone.

    IservedasanaircraftcommanderonB52Gsfrom19891992.Thiswasaninterestingtime.TheColdWarwasnearingitsend,buttheSovietUnionwasstillaroundandStrategicAirCommandbombersstillsatnuclearalert.ThentherewasthatlittlespatintheMiddleEast.

    NewairdefensesweremakingourlivestougherbutB1swerejustbecomingoperationalandtheB2wasstilladream.Wewerestillthebackboneofthebomberforceinthosedays.Wehadtobegood,damngood,becauseourplaneswereolderthanmostofusflyingthem.Wemayhavebeenbesttrainedbomberforceever.

    Thisisaprettybigtopic,soI'lltalkmoreaboutthemissionlater.InthisdiaryIjustwanttointroduceyoutotheairplane.

    Firstoff,it'snota"Stratofortress".NobodycalleditaStratofortress.Itwas,andwillalwaysbe"TheBUFF".Ifyoudon'tknowwhatthatacronymmeans,I'llletyoulookitup.It'snotapoliteterm.

    IflewtheB52G,orthe"Gmodel".They'renotaroundanymore.Theywereallretiredaround1993.BytreatywiththeRussianstheywereallchoppedintopiecessothattheycouldneverbeputbackintoservice.WhenIsawthembeingcutupontelevisionIcried.

    TheGwasbuiltbetween1957and1959.Itwasaninterimmodelbetweentheearlier"talltail"modelsandtheHmodel,whicharetheonlyonesstillflying.The"new"oneswerebuiltin1960by

  • theway.

    Solet'stakealookatthisthing.

    B52GConfigured

    Firstoff,it'ssinisterlooking.Itlookslikeitwasbuilttokillthings.....itwas.They'vehadmanypaintschemesovertheyears.Ourswerepaintedeitheraverydarkgreenoraflatblack.IfDarthVaderhadaplane,thiswouldprobablybeit.

    Bythenthesleeklinesofthelate1950shavegivenwaytoallkindsofbumpsandbulgesfromcamerapodsandjammingantennas.Acloselookwouldrevealaveritable"antennafarm"alongthebellyoftheplane.

    Damnit'sbig.Thatwingismassive189feettiptotip.It'sgoteightengines.Nothingelsehaseightengines.Sure,they'recrappylate50sturbojetsbutthere'seightofthem.That'scool.Eightnoisy,smokebelching,gasguzzling,waterinjectedturbojets.Nobodyusesturbojetsanymore.Evenfightershaveturbofansin1989.

    Suretherearebiggerplanesbutthisthingjustseemsimpressive.Ahulkingbruteofanairplane.Itcanweighinat500,000pounds.Mostofthatisfuel.Atypicalfuelloadwas280,000pounds.Toputthatinperspective,myentire757onlyweighs200,000poundsfullyloaded.IttakesalotoffueltoflytoRussia.Another50,000poundsofthatcouldbeweapons,conventionalorotherwise.Moreonthatlater.

    It'salsodifferent.There'snothingnormalaboutit.AllBoeingshavealotincommon,exceptforthisone.I'veflownthe707(KC135),727and757now.TheB52isnothinglikethem.It'sliketheoddfamilymemberthateveryonewondersiftheywereadopted.

    Airplaneslookthewaytheydoforareason.Inthiscasethemassivebombbay,thepurposeforthisplane'sexistence,isthatreason.Tomakeroomforittheyhadtoputasetofmain"trucks"infrontofitandanotherbehindit.Thefrontwheelsarethesamesizeasthebacks.Thenarrowstanceofthemaingearrequiredthemtoputsmallwheelsoutatthewingtipstokeepthewingsfromtouchingtheground.

    Theythenhadtoattachthewingatanupwardsanglejustsothethingcouldtakeoffandlandwiththatfunkylandinggear.Ifyoueverseeonetakeoff,thewingstartsto"fly"beforetherestoftheplane.That'salsowhytheysometimesappeartobeflyingnosedowntheyare.It'sjustdifferent.

    Technologywiseitrunsthegamutfromlate1940stostateoftheartforthetime.ThebombracksandreleasemechanismarerightoutofaB17.Theradar,howeveristhesameunitastheB1.It

  • evenhadGPSandsatellitecommunicationswhenthosewerenewtechnologies.

    Andithasguns!Howcoolisthat?Thereare4fiftycalibermachinegunsinthetail.Justlikeinallthoseoldmovies,exceptthegunnersitsinthecockpitandcontrolsthemremotely.MostlyIjustliketheideaofhavingsomethingtoshootbackwith.

    Let'stakealookinside.It'shardtogetinto.Youclimbupasmallladderunderthebellyoftheplane.It'scrampedinthere.Asbigasitistheydidn'tleavemuchroomforpeople.Whatspaceisn'ttakenupbyfuelorweaponsistakenupbyelectronics.

    Thecockpithasanupperandlowercompartmentwithanotherladderthatgoesbetweenthem.Thatladderistheonlyplaceyouhaveroomtostandupright.

    Thetwonavigatorssitdownstairs,inthedark.Nowindows.Theyhaveejectionseatsbuttheseatsfiredownwards.Notsogoodforlowlevelmissions.

    Nowindowsdownhere.

    Behindthemarethe"facilities"consistingofacanwithalidonit,whichsometimesleaks.EveryB52Iflewinsmelledlikestalesweat,pissandengineoil.

    UpstairstheGunnerandElectronicWarfareOfficer"EDub"sitfacingbackwards,inthedark.Theydon'thavewindowseither.Theyatleasthaveproperejectionseatsthatgoup.

    MyselfandtheCopilotsitupfrontofcourse.Thereisnoflightengineer.Oddforsomethingbuiltinthe1950s.TheplanewassetupfortheAircraftCommandertoflyandtheCopilottomostlyactastheflightengineer.

    ClimbingintotheAircraftCommander'sseat,it'sreasonablycomfortableforanejectionseat.After12hoursnotsomuch.

  • Notmuchroominhere.

    Onceagainit'samixofveryoldandverynew.Italmostlookssteampunk,orlikea1950smadscientistmovie.Alotofitlookslikeitwas"tackedon"overtheyearsbecauseitwas.

    Humanfactorsweren'tabigdealinthelate50'sanditshowsinthecockpit.Theyprettymuchstuckswitchesandgaugeswherevertheyhadroomforthem.OnlyIcanreachthehydraulicsystems,onlytheCopilotcanreachtheelectricalsystems.Flyingthisthingwillbeaseriousteamefforttheairlinescallit"CRM",SACcalledit"CrewConcept".

    Still,itfeelsgoodsittinghere.Feelstough.Feelspowerful.Lookbackatthosemassivewingsandthoseenginepods.Grabholdofthoseeightthrottles.Itmaynotbeasleek,pointynosedfighterbutit'sawarplane.

    That'sallfornow.We'llgoflyinginthenextdiary.

  • FlyingtheB52Part2MajorKong

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    InthelastdiaryIintroducedyoutotheB52,atleastasIrememberthemfromthelate80sandearly90s.

    FlyingtheB52Part1

    Todaywe'regoingtotakeitoutonatrainingmission.Betterpackalunch,trainingmissionstypicallylasted12hours.Wenormallydidoneortwoaweek.

    AsSACusedtosay"You'vegottobetoughtoflytheheavies".

    Atrainingmissionactuallystartsthedaypriortotheflight.You'dspendthebetterpartofadaymissionplanning.Thecrewwouldstudytherouteofflight,especiallythelowleveltrainingroute(s),airrefuelingprocedures,formationproceduresandthentheAircraftCommander(me)wouldconductaformalcrewbriefing.

    Onanormalmissionyoumightbedonemissionplanningby2:00PM.Ifyouwereplayinginabigexerciseitmighttakeacouplemorehourstocovereverything.

    Mymemoryishazyonthis,butIthinkweshoweduponthedayoftheflight21/2hoursormorebeforetakeofftime.Daysortiestookoffaround6:30AMandnightsortiestookoffaround6:30PM.Thismeanteithergettingupatridiculousoclockorgettingtobedatludicrousoclock.Itwasprettycommontohaveadayandanightsortieinthesameweek,whichreallythrewoffyoursleepschedule."Fatigue"wasnotawordinSAC'svocabulary."Yougottabetough....."

    AbuswouldtakeustoLifeSupporttocollectourflightgear,theFlightKitchenforourboxlunches,CommandPostfortheflightplan(thesewerestoredonportablecomputertapedrives).Finallywe'dheadtoBaseOperationsforourweatherbriefingandtoconductafinalcrewbrief(andalastbathroomstop!)beforeheadingouttotheairplane.

    Attheplanewe'dcheckthemaintenancelogs,andthenmyselfandthecopilotwoulddotheexteriorinspection(we'deachtakeaside)whiletherestofthecrewsettledin.

    Normallyyoudon'tjustjumpintoabomberfireitupandgofly.Ittakestimetoaligntheplane'snavigationalsystemsandtorunthelengthyinteriorinspectionchecklist.There'salsoagoodchanceofsomethingrequiringmaintenanceattention.Theseareoldplanesandthere'salotofthingsthatcanbreak.I'veactuallytaxiiedtotherunwaywithelectronicstechsworkingonsomepieceofequipmentintheplaneandkickedthemoutjustbeforetakeoff.

    Everythinginabomberisbasedontiming.Weneedtotakeoffontimetomeetupwithourtankerontimeandtomakeourlowlevelrouteontime.There'ssomeslopbuiltintotheflightplan,butasignificantdelaywillrequiretheschedulerstostartcoordinatingnewtimesforeverything.

  • Onceeverythingwasreadyenginestartwasnormallybygroundaircart.We'dstartengines4and5(themostinboardoneachwing)withtheaircartandthenusethoseenginestostarttheothersix.

    Withtheenginesrunningit'sanextremelynoisyairplane,bothoutsideandinside.Wealwaysworehelmetsorfullheadsetstocancelsomeofthenoise.Unlikeanairlinercockpit,theonlywaytotalkbetweencrewmemberswasbyusingtheintercom.Mycopilotsittingthreefeetawaywouldnothavebeenabletohearmetalk.Theairconditioningsystemseemedtogeneratemorenoisethancoldair.

    Oncetheenginesarerunningwebringtherestofoursystemsonlineandgetreadytotaxi.Evenwiththeairconditioningonit'slikeasaunaintheairplane.MostoftheACisbeingsenttokeeptheelectronicscool.Wesweatinthecockpituntilwereachaltitude."Hey,yougottabetough....."

    Thehardestpartofflyinganylargeairplaneistaxiingitontheground.TheB52especiallysobecausetherearewheelsoutonthewingtipsandyoualwayshavetokeepinmindwherethoseare.FortunatelySACbaseshadnicewidetaxiwaysandrunways.Thenosetrucksarequiteawaysbehindthecockpit,soyouhadtomakebigsquareturnslikeacitybus.Therewasnotillerforthenosewheelsteeringlikeanairlinerwouldhave.Itwasalldonethroughtherudderpedals.Therewasasettingfortaxiandalowrangefortakeoffandlandingthatlimitedhowmuchsteeringyouhad.

    Neartheendoftherunwaytherewouldbeanotherpilot,sittinginatruckwitharadioandactingasasafetyobserver.Hewouldgiveusaonceoverlookingforanythingoutofplaceontheplane.Wealldidour"turninthebarrel"pullingthisduty.Onceclearedtogowe'dpulloutontotherunway.

    Takeoffwasdifferentfromanyotherplane.Iftherewasacrosswind,wecouldactuallypivotthemainwheelssothattheplanewouldfaceintothewindwhilethewheelsfacedstraightdowntherunway.Whentheplanewasbrandnewthiswasactuallyclassified,andtheywouldn'tshowthelandinggearinpublicityphotos.

    Theflapsarehugeandelectricallypowered(mostheaviesusehydraulicsforthis).Theflapsareactuallyaslargeasthewingonsomeairliners.Therewasonlyoneflapsetting,100percent,andittookthemafullminutetoextendorretract.

    AswelinedupontherunwayI'dshiftthenosewheelsteeringtolowrange,advancethethrottlesandthenturnonthewaterinjection.Itwouldgetevennoisieras2000poundsofwaterwaspumpedintotheenginestoaugmentourthrust.

    IalwaysthoughtthatwaterinjectionwassomethingWileE.CoyoteinventedtocatchtheRoadrunner.I'mprettysureitsaid"ACME"onitsomewhere.Pouringwateronafiredoesn'tseemveryintuitive,butitworks.Thewatercoolstheairgoingintotheengines.Thedenserairletsusburnmorefueltomakemorethrust.Asthewaterturnstosteam,italsogivesusmorethrust.It'ssortofapoorman'safterburner.Wesometimesreferredtoourplanesas"waterwagons"or"steamjets".

    Thisalsoproducedatremendousamountofdense,blacksmoke.Ifyouweretakingoffbehindanotherbomber(sometimesascloseas12seconds)youcouldn'tseeawholelot.

    Takeoff,likeeverythingelseonabomberwasacreweffort.We'duseastopwatchtomakesurewewereacceleratingproperly.Ifwedidn'tachieveacertainspeedbyacertaintimesomethingwaswrongandwewouldrejectthetakeoff.

  • Pilot(me):"Setdrythrust"Copilot(adjuststhrottles):"Clearedforwater"Pilot(checkswaterinjection):"Fourgoodpumps"Pilot(checksairspeed):"70knots....now"Navigator(startshisstopwatch):"Nav'stiming"Navigator:"ExpirationofS1timing.......now"Pilot(checksairspeedagain):"Committed"

    OncepastS1speed(V1inthecivilianworld,SACalwayshadtobedifferent)we'regoingnomatterwhat.Wewouldn'tbeabletostopintheremainingrunwayifwehadaproblem.

    Passing70knotsorso,thewingsactuallystartflyingsoIhavetostartworkingtokeepthemlevel.I'malsoholdingbackpressureontheyoketokeeptherearwheelsontherunway.Otherwisethebackwheelswillliftofffirstandwe'llbecomea480,000poundwheelbarrow(bad).Normalplanesdon'tactlikethis,bytheway.

    Wealsodidn'trotatefortakeofflikeanormalplane,wewould"unstick".Whentheplane'sgoodandreadytoflyitflies.InafullyloadedGmodelwewouldbeuncomfortablyclosetotheendoftherunwaybythetimethishappened.WesometimesjokedthatitonlybecameairborneduetothecurvatureoftheEarth.

    That'sonlyaslightexaggeration.Gmodelshadabadhabitofusingmorerunwaytotakeoffthanwhatthetakeoffdatapredicted.Sometimesitwoulduseeverylastbitofrunway.Ononeortwooccasionswehadtoputthethrottlesallthewaytothefirewallandoverboosttheenginesjusttogetthethingofftheground.It'sroughontheengines,butnotasroughasflyingthroughtreeswouldbe.

    Oncetheplanefinallydecidesthatit'sgoingtoflytoday,itactuallycomesofftherunwayinanoselevelorevennosedownattitude.Quiteoddthefirsteverytimeyouseeit.

    Onceairborne,Iwouldtapthebrakestostopthewheelsfromspinning(normalplanesdothisforyou)andcallforgearup.At1000feetI'dcallforflapsup.Astheflapsslowlycomeupthejetaccelerates.Thekeyhereistomatchouraccelerationwiththeflapposition.Toofastandweoverspeedtheflaps.Tooslowandwecouldstalltheairplane.Abouthalfwaythroughbringingtheflapsup(ittakesaminute)thewaterinjectionwouldrunoutofwater,itwouldgetabitlessnoisy,andwe'dstarttodescend.Oncetheflapswerefullyupwe'daccelerateto280knotsandstarttoclimbagain.AB52takeofflookslikearollercoasterup,down,andfinallyupagain.Normalplanesdon'tdothisnoticeatrendhere?

  • B52Gwaterinjectedtakeoff

    ClimbperformanceinaGmodelwasprettyuninspiring.Itwilltakeagoodhalfhourorsotoreachcruisealtitude.Oncethere,we'llstartheadingforourfirsttrainingeventtoday,apracticeairrefueling,whichI'llcoverinthenextinstallment.

  • FlyingtheB52Part3MajorKong

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    So,we'reanhourorsointoour12hourB52trainingmission.

    http://www.dailykos.com/...

    Nowit'stimetomeetupwithatankerandpracticesomeairrefueling.

    Airrefuelingisabigpartofthebombermission.DuringtheGulfWarwewouldhavetoairrefuelthreetimestogettothetargetandback.Wepracticeditonjustabouteverytrainingsortie.

    IalsofoundittobethemostdifficultmaneuverIeverhadtolearn.

    Inordertopracticeairrefueling,wehavearefueling"track"scheduled.Thisisachunkofairspaceroughly100mileslong,10milesorsowideandacouplethousandfeetofaltitude.

    Therearerefuelingtracksscatteredaroundthecountry.Whenthetrackisactuallybeingused,AirTrafficControlwillkeepeveryoneelseoutofthatairspace.

    Firstwehavetogetthere.TheB52isprettymuchaNavigator'sairplane.ItoftenseemedlikeIwasjustthevoiceactivatedautopilotfortheNavs."Pilotflyheading325.Pilotgiveme290knotsindicated."Therewasverylittlenavigationalinformationavailabletothepilots.WejusthadtotrustthattheNavsweregettinguswhereweneededtobewhenweneededtobethere.

    "Nav,wherearewe?""Well,we'relostbutwe'remakinggoodtime.""#$&^*!!!!"

    Therearetwowayswecanjoinupwiththetanker(s).Ifwe'reallheadedmoreorlessinthesamedirection(maybewetookofffromthesamebase)we'lljustdoanenrouterendezvousmeetingataspecificpointataspecifictime.

    Ifthetankeriscomingfromanotherbase,theymightalreadybeattherefuelingtrack,inanorbit,waitingforustogetthere.Thetankerwillmakeaturnaswecomedowntrackand,ifeverythingworksasadvertised,theywillrolloutroughly3milesaheadand1000feetaboveus.

    Aquickwordabouttankers.ThetankeristheleastglamorousaircraftintheAirForceandtheonethatreallymakesustheforcewearetoday.Everybodyneedstankersupport:bombers,fighters,transports,AWACS,theNavy,theMarinesandevenNATO.Thetankerguys(andIwasonelaterinmycareer)likedtosay"Nobodykicksasswithoutourgas".

    Togetthatgasweneedtocloseupthelast3milesandgetjoinedupwiththetanker.Weknowthetankerisholdingtherefuelingairspeedforourplane280knots.Wejustgoabitfasterthanthatandslowlyclimbtowardshisaltitudeasweclosethegap.Wedothisinaverycontrolledmanner,reducingourclosurerateaswegetcloser.Wedon'twantto"cowboy"ithere.Screaminginwithabunchofairspeedandunderrunningthetankerwouldbeextremelydangerous.Severalbombersandtankershavebeenlostthatwayovertheyears.

    Westopourclosureabout100feetbehindandbelowthetankerinwhat'scalledthe"precontact"position.Theboomoperatorinthebackofthetankercomesontheradioandclearsmeto"contact".Notethatinwartimewemightdothisallwithouttalkingontheradioswewouldn'twantpeopletoknowwewerecoming.

    Nowtheaerodynamicsoftwolargeairplanesflyingincloseformationareprettycomplicated.I'mnotanaero

  • engineersoI'mnotsureIcouldevenfullyexplainit.InSACwejustsimplifiedittoeachairplanepushinga"bowwave"ofairinfrontofit,kindoflikeaship.Easyenoughtoimagine.

    Notaseasyasitlooks

    Aswecloseinourbowwavewillverynoticeablypushuponthetanker'stail.Thetankerpilot(orautopilot)willhavetocorrectthiswithtrim.

    Closinginfromprecontactisabittricky.Ihavetomoveforwardsandupwardstoapositionroughly30feetbehindthetanker.Ataround50feetI'mgoingtopassthroughhisbowwave,whichwillstopmeifIdon'thaveenoughclosure.IfIusetoomuchspeed,however,I'llcomeindangerouslyfastandtheboomoperatorwillcallfora"breakaway"maneuverandwe'llhavetogobackandstartalloveragain.

    AsIcloseinIseethetipoftherefuelingboompassoverthecockpit.Wecanactuallyhearthesoundoftheairstreamgoingpastit.Therefuelingreceptacleisroughly10feetbehindwhereI'msitting.Someboomoperatorswill"reach"forusandplugusonthewayin.OtherswillwaituntilI'mgoodandsteady(hah!)inthecontactpositionbeforeconnecting.

    Oncetheboomoperatorishappytheywillextendtheboomintoourreceptacleandelectrictoggleswillphysicallylatchontoit.Tworowsoflightsonthebellyofthetankerhelpmestayinpositiononesetforup/downandonesetforfore/aft.

    attribution:NoneSpecified

  • Looksclose,don'tit?

    Soundseasyhuh?That'swhatIthoughtwhenIwasahotshotT38instructorcheckingoutontheB52."ThislooksjustlikeflyingclosetrailinaT38".Exceptit'snothingatalllikeflyingclosetrailinaT38.AT38handleslikeaFerrari.AB52handleslikeadumptruck.

    AB52Gisafat,wallowing,sowofanaircraftbehindthetanker.Therearenoaileronssorollcontroliseversoslow.Movetheyokeandonetwothreeokayit'sfinallyrolling.Centertheyokeandonetwothreeit'sstillrolling.....okayit'sfinallystopped.

    Ifthatwasn'tbadenough,italsohaswhat'scalleda"DutchRoll",whichisn'tatypeofpastrypopularintheNetherlands.Itmeansthenoseoftheplaneistryingtomakealittlefigure8allthetime.Thatshorttail,modifiedforlowlevelflying,justdoesn'tworkaswellastheoldtalltailsdid.Evenwithtwoyawdampersandapitchdamperthenoseoftheplaneisalwayshuntingaround.Notsomuchthatyou'dnoticeituntilyougetupclosebehindthetanker.

    So,justtokeepmywingslevelIhavetoconstantlysawbackandforthontheyoke.AndbecausetheplaneissounresponsiveIhavetomakemyinputsbeforeIactuallyneedthem.Verynonintuitive.Itwasn'tuntilmyeighthcheckoutridethatIeversuccessfullygothookeduptothetanker.I'msureIscaredafewboomoperatorsintheprocess.

    Gettingtheleft/rightnaileddownisthetoughestpart,butIalsohavetomaintainmyverticalpositionwithinafewfeetandcontrolmyfore/aftpositionaswell.Hopefullythetankerpilotissmooth.Ifheletshisairspeeddriftthenmyjobgetsthatmuchtougher.SoinadditiontosawingtheyokeI'malsomovingitforwardandaftwhileconstantlytweakingthethrottles.

    I'mtryingtostayinsidea10footboxofairspacerelativetothetankerwhilebothofusaremovingalongat280indicated,maybeatnight,maybeintheweather,maybeinturbulence.OnegoodflickofmywristandIcankill10peoplemycrewplus4inthetanker.Tellmeagainwhyracecardriversmakesomuchmoney?

    IfImoveoutofposition,mybowwavewillactuallypushthetankeraround.SotherougherIget,therougherhegetsandsoon.It'seasierifthetankerisonautopilot,butwealsopracticewiththetankerpilothandflying.IfthingsgettoowildtheboomoperatorcandisconnectusorIcanpushabuttonmyyoketodisconnectus.

    ThiswholetimeI'mjustlookingatthatgreatbigairplanefillingmywindscreen.Mycopilotmeanwhileisdirectingthefuelwhereitneedstogotokeepourcenterofgravitywithinlimits.Onatrainingmissionwemayonlytakeonatokenamountoffuel,justafewthousandpounds.

  • YeahIknowit'sanHmodel.BestpictureIcouldfind.

    Onarealmissionwecaneasilytake100,000poundsoffuelwhichrequiresasolid2025minutesontheboom.Ifthatsoundslikehardworkitis.Imaginethetankergetting100,000poundslighterandusgetting100,000poundsheavier.I'vehadthethrottlestothefirewallandstillbeenfallingofftheboom.

    Onatrainingsortiewemightspendanhourorsoontherefuelingtrack,cyclingbackandforthbetweencontactandprecontact.ThetankercrewneedsthepracticejustasmuchasIdo.TheboomoperatorneedsthepracticeasmuchasIdo.

    Finallyit'stimetocallitquits.We'llfinishupwithapracticebreakawaymaneuver.Weneedtogetseparationbetweenthetwoaircraftanyways.

    Wewoulddoabreakawayforrealifthebomberwascomingintoofastonthetankeroranytimethingsstartgettingoutofhand.Theboomoperatorcalls"Breakaway!Breakaway!Breakaway!"overtheradio,webothhitourdisconnectswitches,Ichopmypowertoidleandcallforthelandinggeardown(!).Meanwhilethetankerpilotgoestomaximumpower.Wedropawayquicklywhilethetankeracceleratesaway.

    Somewhereintherethetanker'sautopilotmaydecideitcan'tkeepupwiththetrimchangesandcallitquitsthenthetankerpilotsuddenlyfindshimselfwithahandfulofoutoftrimairplanepitchingupwhiletheboomoperatorgetsafacefullofB52.Fun.

    You"madeyourmoney"asanAircraftCommanderbygettingthefuel.Ifyoucouldn'tgetthefuelyoucouldn'tdoyourmission.Youeitherwouldn'tgettothetargetoryouwouldn'tgetback.

    Ididn'tgetreallygoodatairrefuelinguntilaftertheGulfWar.Wespentalotoftimeontheboomduringthatthing.IgottowhereIcouldpull3enginestoidleonthesamewingandstillstayhookedup.

    Whew!Thatwasalotofwork.Nexttimewe'llgettothereallygoodstufflowlevelflying.

    Heykids!YoucanmakeyourveryownB52airrefuelingsimulator!Justsitatyourdeskwhileholdinga3pounddumbbellinyourlefthandlikeitwasanaircraftyoke.Nowmoveitupanddownsixinchesforthenexthour.Enjoy!

  • Lasttimewetalkedaboutairrefueling.

    FlyingtheB52Part3

    Nowit'stimetogetdownanddirty.Myfavoritepartofthebombermissionwaslowlevelflying.

    Betterbuckleupit'sliabletogetbumpy.

    Firstoff,whatidiotfliesahugeairplaneclosetotheground?Oh,andwedoitatnight?Areyoukiddingme?

    Keepinmindthatthiswasthelate80'searly90's.WewerestilltrainingtopenetrateSovietairdefensesif,Godforbid,itevercametothat.

    USAFdoctrineatthattime,bothforbombersandfighterswasthatlowwasthewaytogo.B1s,F111s,F4s,F16s,A10sallhadalowlevelmission.EvensometransportslikeC130sandC141shadspecialopsmissionsthatcalledforlowlevelflying.

    Thisisancienthistoryofcourse.I'vebeenoutofthebombercommunityfor20yearsandI'msuretacticstodayarequitedifferent.

    So,we'reflyingthisthingthat'sasbigasanapartmentbuildingandourmaintacticistohide.I'mimagininganelephanttiptoeingaroundandtryingtobesneaky.....

    Whatdoesbeinglowgetyou?Backthenatleastitmadeithardforairdefenseradarstofindyou.Especiallyiftherewasanykindofterrain.TheSovietfightersofthedaywouldhaveatoughtimepickingyououtofthegroundclutter.Iknow,Mig29swerearoundthenbuttheywerenewandthereweren'tmanyofthem.YouwerealotmorelikelytorunintoaMig23orMig21even.Alotofthebigsurfacetoairmissiles,thetelephonepolesizedonesthatcouldreachoutandtouchyoualongwaysoff,couldn'tengageyoudownlow.Themissilesthatcouldwereshortranged.

    EverseentheThunderbirdsorBlueAngelsatanairshow?They'llhaveoneguysplitoffandwhileyou'rebusywatchingtheothershe'llcomesneakingaroundlow,rightoveryourheadfromwhereyou'renotlooking.Surprise!Kindoflikethat.

  • Notme.Wishitwas.

    Sobeinglowmadeyouhardtofindandhardtoshootiftheydidfindyou.Couldyoustillgetshot?Heckyeah.Nobody'sinvincible,nobody,wewerejusttryingtoeventheodds.

    Howlowcouldwego?Atnightourequipmentwouldletusgodownto200feet.Normallywebumpedthatupafewhundredfeettohaveabiggersafetymargin.200feetisroughlyequaltoyourwingspan.Intheday?Wellweweren'treallysupposedtogolower.Someotherguysmighthavegonedownto50feetonce,soIheard.I'lldenyeverything.That'smystoryandI'mstickingwithit.

    Alsonotme.

  • Sohowdoyoufly360knotsafewhundredfeetofftheground,atnight,inthemountains?Verycarefully.Youcangetkilleddoingthis.AB1crewwaskilledonanightlowlevelaroundthattimeframe.AfewyearsprioraB52crewskippedoffamesaandallbutonegotout.IknewtheNavigatoronthatone.Hehadburnsonthebackofhisneckfromjustbeatingthefireballoutoftheairplaneasheejected.

    Ihadagoodejectionseat,buttheNavigator'sseatsfireddownwards.IfsomethinghappeneddownlowmyfirstinstinctwouldbetotradeourairspeedforaltitudeandgivetheNavsthe500feet(ormorehopefully)theyneededtogetout.Thoseguyshadtobrave.Nowindows,nocontrolsandaseatthatshootsyouattheground.

    Wehadsomespecialequipmentontheplanetohelpus.TheprimarytoolwastheTerrainAvoidanceRadar.UnlikeanF111orB1,theplanecouldn'tflyitselfdownlow.IhadaTVscreeninfrontofmethatwoulddepicta"Trace".Thiswasacrosssectionoftheterrainoutaheadofus.Weadjusthowfaraheadthesystemwaslooking.TherewasalittleairplanesymbolthatI"flew"alongtheTrace.Thiswouldkeepusatourpresetterrainclearance.Wealsohadaradaraltimeter,whichtoldushowhighwewereabovewhatwasdirectlybeneathus.

    Youcanseetheterraintraceinfrontofmehere.

    Downstairs,theRadarNavigatorhadanexcellentterrainmappingradarthatgavehim"thebigpicture".Weworkedtogetherveryclosely.Hewouldbelookingoutaheadwiththatradarandtellingmewherethebestroutethroughtheterrainwas.

    Wehadacoupleothertricksupoursleeve.Thetwo"chins"youseeunderthenoseofB52arecameras.OneisaFLIR(prettynewstuffatthetime)andtheotherisaNightVisioncamera(alsohightechin1989).IcouldbringeitheroftheseuponmyTVscreen,alongwithsomeothernavigationalinformation.

  • LookcloseandyoucanseetheridgelineintheFLIRpicture.

    Thesewereimportantbecauseifwewereactuallyinbadguycountrywemighthavetodothiswithoursupercoolradarturnedoff.Nothingscreams"Hey!There'sabombercomingyourway!"thanblaringawaywithapowerfulradarthancanbedetectedalongwayoff.

    NightVisionGoggles(NVGs)werebrandnewthenandwewerejuststartingtousethemaswell.Theseweretheheavy,firstgeneration,models.Theyclippedtothefrontofourhelmetandabatterypackvelcroedtothebackofthehelmet.Ifyouneededtoejectyouwouldhavetoremembertotakethemoffortheweightwouldsnapyourneck.Todayyoucanbuybetteronesatasportinggoodsstoreforafewhundreddollars.Backthenthiswascuttingedgestuff.

    Aquicknoteaboutthepictures.TheseweretakenonIR144,alowleveltrainingroutethatgoesthroughtheBigBendregionofSouthwestTexas,NewMexicoandArizona.

    ThefirsttimeIflewthisroutewasatnight.WhenIflewitinthedayIwasamazedathowsheersomeoftheterrainwas.

    ThisrouteclaimedthelivesofaB1crewonanighttrainingmission.

    Wenormallyflewlowlevelsbetween320and360knots.Ourtopspeeddownlowwas390,sowenormallykeptalittleinreserveincasewegotbehindandhadtomakeuptime.

  • Notasmuchfunatnight.

    Itcouldgetverybumpydownthere.Especiallyonahotday.Thathugewingwasdesignedtoflyat50,000feet.Itwouldbeatyouupdownlow.I'dlookoutthewindowandwatchthatwingflex18feetatthetipandtheenginepodsshakingbackandforth.AfterIwhileIstoppedlookingatit.WhatIcan'tseecan'tscareme.Iftheturbulencegotsobadthatwecouldn'treadtheinstrumentswe'dcallitquits.

    Italsocouldgetprettyhot.Theairconditioningwasn'tworthmuchdownlow.

    Rememberthateveryoneelseontheplaneissittinginthedark.MyRadarNavigatorwouldgetairsickandthrowuponeverylowlevel.Hewashardcore.Icouldn'thavedoneit.

    Mostofthelowlevelroutestookaround3to4hourstonavigate.AlotofthetrainingrouteswereupovertheDakotaswhereit'ssparselypopulated.ThemostfunoneswereoutoverUtahandNevada.MyfavoriteroutecrossedLakePowellyoucoulddropdownintothecanyonlikeLukeSkywalkerattackingtheDeathStar.

  • Tuckingupalongsidetheridgeline.Thisiscalled"TerrainMasking".

    Normallytherewouldbeapracticebombrunattheendofthelowlevelroute.

    Wedidn'tusuallygettodroprealbombsinpractice,maybeonceayearduringabigexercise.Wewouldnormallytransmitatoneontheradioandaradarsitewouldscorewhereourimaginarybombwouldhavewent.Ifweweresimulatinganuke,closecounts.

    Thesitecouldalsobringuppretendthreats.Forexample,theycouldsimulatevariousmissileradarslockingontous.ThiswouldgivetheElectronicWarfareOfficer(EWOorEDub)somepracticewithhisjammers.

    Oncewedidourthingwe'dclimbuptoaltitudeandtakeawelldeservedrestonthewaybackhome.Anightlowlevelwashardworkbothmentallyandphysically.Ittookthemostcrewcoordinationofanythingwedid.Wehadtokeepourselvesoutoftherocks,makeourtimeovertarget,evadethesimulatedthreatsandhitoursimulatedtarget(s).

    Ofcourse,they'dhave3hoursoftouchandgolandingsscheduledforuswhenwegotback.Seriously."Yougottabetoughtoflytheheavies".

    Sowouldthisstuffhaveworked?Ithinkso.AroundthattimeaRussianMig29pilotdefectedandflewhisplanetoTurkey.TheSACtacticspeopleaskedhim"DoyouthinkyoucouldinterceptaB52flying300feetatnightinthemountains?"

    Thisguywasdescribedtomeasaverycocky,arrogantfighterpilot.Hewasflyingthebestplanehiscountryhadatthetime.Hisanswer?

    "NOEFFINGWAY!"

  • Flying the B-52 - Part 1Flying the B-52 - Part 2Flying the B-52 - Part 3Flying the B-52 - Part 4