Military Aviation


B-52 flight instructor exceeded the 10,000 hour mark

An incredible record has been set at Barksdale Air Force Base (AFB).

On Mar. 2, 2017 in fact Lt. Col. Steven R. Smith, 93rd Bomb Squadron (BS) flight instructor exceeded the 10,000 hour mark in the B-52 Stratofortress.

The funny thing is that, as reported by Tech. Sgt. Theodore Daigle, 307th Bomb Wing in his article A 10,000 Hour Love Affair, Smith’s first reactions were disappointment and anger when he received his assignment to the B-52 three decades ago.

“I was in the top 10 percent of my class in navigator school and the B-52 was not even on my wish list, so I was really upset,” said Smith. “I remember my advisor trying to tell me I was going to love it, but I didn’t believe him.”

Thirty years after, besides having more hours in the aircraft than any pilot currently serving in the Air Force, Smith’s sentiments for the machine have radically changed.

“It does not mean I’m smarter or better than anyone else here, there are lots of people in this unit smarter than I am,” he said. “It just means I love the B-52; It has been the center point of my whole career.”

However Smith never aimed to have so many flight hours in the BUFF (Big Ugly Fat Fucker, as the B-52 is dubbed by its aircrews). In fact when he arrived at his first duty station, rumors circulating throughout the bomber community sounded like his time in the aircraft would be short.

Joining the Air Force Reserve

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Steve Smith, 93rd Bomb Squadron flight instructor, fields questions from the media at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., March 3, 2017. Smith just returned from a training mission where he surpassed 10,000 flight hours in the B-52 Stratofortress. During his career, Smith helped train more than 1800 B-52 air crew members. He was also instrumental in developing a targeting pod for the jet that improved weapon accuracy.

“There was talk about a new bomber coming into the inventory soon, so I thought I would just stick it out until they replaced it,” he said. But, since the change never happened, Smith’s affection for the B-52 grew with each passing year.

“I was on active duty for seven years so I flew quite a bit and it was something I just found myself enjoying,” he said.

After having retired from active duty, Smith joined the Air Force Reserve and was assigned to the 93rd BS. Since the squadron had a combat mission and a high operational tempo Smith attended every mission briefing he could.

25 percent chance to get on the jet

“I figured each time I went to a briefing, there would be a 25 percent chance I’d get on the jet,” he said. “Turns out, I got on almost every time.”

“He is the B-52 warrior of warriors”, said Col. James Morriss, III, 307th Bomb Wing vice-commander. “When he is part of the flight crew, you know there is nothing to worry about on that mission.”

For this reason came as no surprise Smith’s assignment as 93rd BS instructor when the squadron became a flight training unit.

“His training and mentorship are directly responsible for preparing two generations of B-52 pilots,” pointed out Morriss. “People all around the world owe their capabilities to him.”

Col. Rob Burgess, 307th Operations Group commander, agreed with Morriss’ assessment.

B-52 flight instructor with 10,000 hours: a BUFF legend

“His experience and credibility are priceless for the students,” he said. “At 2000 hours, a pilot really has their respect, but at 10,000 hours you are a B-52 legend.”

Smith said he never intended to be an instructor, but is grateful for the duty.
“It has been extremely rewarding, watching the students learn the jet and it has been a great privilege to see them perform so well in combat,” he explained.

However his contributions extend beyond the schoolhouse. He has flown in multiple combat missions, including some while still serving as an instructor. He’s also helped to develop the targeting pod which allows for greater target accuracy.

As for the future, Smith said it is getting more difficult to keep up his current pace, but he still wants to try.

“I’ve got another two years to go and I’ll probably ask for an extension,” he said. “I’d like to fly another 1,000 hours.”

Noteworthy this is not the first record set this year by the B-52 community: in fact as we have previously reported, on Jan. 5, 2017 the 96th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron (EBS) and the 96th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Unit (EAMU) launched their 201st sortie, breaking the record for the highest B-52H Stratofortress “sortie streak” during a flight supporting Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR).

Quite impressive if you think that the first U.S. Air Force (USAF) B-52H was introduced to the Strategic Air Command (SAC) fleet in May of 1961.

In the following video, brought to our attention by Miguelm Mendoza a reader of The Aviation Geek Club, is described the impressive record set by Lt. Col. Steven R. Smith.

Photo credit: Senior Airman Curt Beach, Airman 1st Class Stuart Bright, Tech. Sgt. Ted Daigle / U.S. Air Force

Artwork courtesy of

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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