And off she goes: B-52H 61-0007 airborne again more than a decade after her retirement (Image © Staff personnel Davis Monthan AFB / USAF)

Back from the Boneyard: 50 year old bomber into the blue yonder

UPDATED 20 FEBRUARY 2015 | Probably the best US Air Force product ever is not that fancy, stealthy F-22 Raptor, but a big bad bomber which had its first flight in 1952. It is actually so good that it can decay in the Arizona desert for years and still make it back to the flight line for a new call of duty.

Her name is somewhat not fancy 61-0007 and time has taken its toll on her. Yet this is the US Air Force’s newest strategic bomber. Re-added to the fleet of 76 active B-52H Stratofortresses this week. The Buff, as people like the call the fat lady, flew to its new home of Barksdale Air Force Base for additional maintenance and upgrade modifications to make her one of the dames again. The 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) prepped her well enough for her delivery flight from Davis-Monthan AFB in Arizona, where thousands of aircraft enjoy the sunshine of the Boneyard. Many will never make it back in the air, but 61-0007 is an exception.

The last of 744 B-52s was delivered in 1962. With arms reductions in place the fleet was slowly reduced to its current strength: 76 airplanes filling three squadrons of the 2nd Bomb Wing at Barksdale and two of the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot AFB in North Dakota; plus some lose guns on Nellis AFB, Edwards AFB and the occasional visitor to Tinker AFB where the B-52 System Program Office is located.

Just a month for its delivery flight to Barksdale, B-52H no. 61-0007 is still in pretty bad shape at the tarmac of the Boneyard in the Arizona desert (Image © Teresa Pittman, AMARG / USAF)
Just a month for its delivery flight to Barksdale, B-52H no. 61-0007 is still in pretty bad shape sitting on the tarmac of the Boneyard in the Arizona desert (Image © Teresa Pittman, AMARG / USAF)

When one of the 76 Buff’s was severely damaged in 2014, Minot’s office fixed it with something unexpected: to get a stored B-52H back from the dead. The AMARG choose 61-0007, a former “Ghost Rider” from Minot AFB, which had parts of her surface covered with plast-paint to protect it against the elements, mainly for salvaging parts for the active fleet.

Some aircraft at the Boneyard are lucky and do make it back to a flying career. “But this is the first re-commissioning of a B-52 in Air Force history,” says retired Chief Master Sgt. Timothy Finch working with the USAF’s Global Strike Command talking to USAF journalist Kimberly Woodruff.

The ferry flight of the old plane was somewhat special. Only three people on board – more were not available – plain navigation without any digital aids and from start to landing with gear down all the way. The Shreveport Times put together a nice story on it.

We wish the US Air Force’s newest bomber a happy comeback career. After being away since 2004 she sure must feel awesome to be back in the blue yonder.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger

Related story: ↑ More B-52s into the digital age

And off she goes: B-52H 61-0007 airborne again more than a decade after her retirement (Image © Staff personnel Davis Monthan AFB / USAF)
And off she goes: B-52H 61-0007 airborne again more than a decade after her initial retirement (Image © Staff personnel Davis Monthan AFB / USAF)