This Is The Most Incredible Tour Of A B-52 Stratofortress We Have Ever Seen
A highly experienced B-52 crew gives a very detailed tour of the inside and outside of the iconic Cold War-era jet.
It may be an overused axiom, but the B-52 is truly like a fine wine — it just keeps getting better with age. With the Stratofortress — the youngest of which will hit 60 years old next year — finally getting new engines, the type will have more range and better field performance, payload, maintainability, and economy. This, combined with significant sensor, avionics, survivability, weapons, and networking upgrades, as well as its new internal smart bomb racks, will see the “BUFF” through to the second half of this century and probably beyond. Yes, 100-year-old B-52s flying in active service isn't just possible, it is becoming more probable with each passing day.
I have discussed the iconic Cold War-era air-combat system with those who flew and maintained it, regularly written about it at length, and just generally never stopped learning about it year after year. Yet the video below, posted on aviation photographer Erik Johnston's fabulous Youtube channel, is the most comprehensive tour of a B-52 I have ever seen.
Running nearly two hours in length, the video goes into so many tiny details about the aircraft, which exists today as a hodgepodge of early Cold War engineering and retrofitted modern technology. The tour is led by Lt. Col. Aaron Bohl and his highly experienced crew, based out of Barksdale AFB in Louisiana, as well as a crew chief for the B-52 being examined, which carries the nickname "Politically Incorrect" embossed below mushroom cloud nose art. The B-52 community retains its nuclear mission, of course, albeit without nuclear gravity bombs — just nuclear-tipped cruise missiles are used these days. Also, just the idea of being a B-52 crew chief sounds overwhelming, doesn't it?
From discussions of a B-52H's tire pressure and "six-engine approaches" — apparently, it can go around on just two engines in some circumstances — to pointing out where the 20mm cannon shells once dropped out of the tail when the type still had a tail gun, this video is as fascinating as it is thorough. We even get a very intimate description of how the B-52's now famous, but once-secretive, swiveling landing gear — which is critical to the type's ability to accomplish crabbed crosswind landings — is set from the cockpit.
Then there is the reality that B-52 Weapons Systems Officers crawl into the weapons bay in flight. Another little door at the other end of the bay is where the gunner would have to squeeze through to get to their lonely station in the tail.
There are so many smaller things, too, such as the safety bars installed on the ground in the bay so the doors don't close on anyone standing in it, which could presumably cut a person in half. Oh, and the dumb-bomb racks that the B-52 uses internally are the same as the ones used on a World War II B-17!
As for its TF33 engines, they hold 41 quarts of oil, and all eight suck 20,000 lbs of fuel an hour at idle. That is nearly the entire fuel load of an F-15C with two drop tanks. Maybe my favorite part is when the crew chief smiles lovingly at one point as he states, "You're always hearing creaks and pops," while he walks atop the aircraft's wings.
Also of note, the inside of the tail of the jet looks more like what you would find in an engine room of an old ship than on a transonic bomber. In addition, the tour is a reminder that 'B-52ing' is truly a team sport, and we are not even seeing the army of maintenance people that keep these aircraft flying — not just at Barksdale AFB, but also at the B-52's depot at Tinker AFB.
Above all else, this video highlights just how complex yet brilliantly engineered these aircraft, which could arguably be considered antiques at this point, truly are.
Author's note: A huge thanks to Erik Johnston for shooting this fabulous video and to @guyplopsky for the heads up that it existed!
Contact the author: Tyler@thedrive.com