“We see a handful of strikes every year, but out of all the maintainers we have, no one had seen lightning damage that bad,” Lt. Col. George P. Cole III, commander of the 307th MXS
As reported by KTBS a U.S. Air Force (USAF) B-52 Stratofortress strategic bomber on final approach to Barksdale Air Force Base (AFB) in December was struck by a bolt of lightning that tore a man-sized gash in the tail.
According 307th Bomb Wing (BW), since control systems for the BUFF (Big Ugly Fat Fucker, as the B-52 is dubbed by her aircrews) were not affected the crew was able to land without incident.
The episode took place on Dec. 19, 2017 as the crew was returning to Barksdale from a training mission. A story posted on Barksdale’s web site said the crew heard something that sounded like a thud outside the jet, but did not know what happened until after they landed and got out of the B-52.
As 307th BW explained the aircraft features a lightning arrester designed to mitigate damage from lightning strikes, but the strike that damaged the tail was too strong for the jet’s safeguards.
“We see a handful of strikes every year, but out of all the maintainers we have, no one had seen lightning damage that bad,” Lt. Col. George P. Cole III, commander of the 307th Maintenance Squadron (MXS), pointed out. “That includes personnel that have been with the unit for more than 20 years.”
The entire tail of the jet was replaced on Feb. 1 and the B-52 is back in service. According 307th BW it took about 10 hours of work time to replace the tail.
Master Sgt. Eric Allison, 307th MXS B-52 aircraft mechanic, was the only maintainer on the eight-person team with experience replacing a tail.
“It’s challenging because you have to position the tail just right – and it is a 2,000-pound piece of metal,” Allison said.
B-52s are no longer being manufactured but a tail was available from another jet that is no longer in service, the USAF said.
For more than 40 years, B-52 Stratofortresses have been the backbone of the manned strategic bomber force for the U.S.. The BUFF is capable of dropping or launching the widest array of weapons in the U.S. inventory. This includes gravity bombs, cluster bombs, precision guided missiles and joint direct attack munitions (JDAMs). Updated with modern technology the B-52 will be capable of delivering the full complement of joint developed weapons and will continue into the 21st century as an important element of our nation’s defenses. Current engineering analyses show the B-52’s life span to extend beyond the year 2040.
Photo credit: Master Sgt. Ted Daigle / U.S. Air Force
Artwork courtesy of AircraftProfilePrints.com