B-52H crew earn award for skillfully recovering at 1,200 feet after 4 engines flamed out on one side

B-52H crew earn award for skillfully recovering at 1,200 feet after 4 engines flamed out on one side

By Dario Leone
Jun 14 2024
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B-52H crew earn Air Force Global Strike Command General Curtis E. LeMay award

The Air Force Global Strike Command General Curtis E. LeMay award for the outstanding bomber crew category was awarded to a B-52H Stratofortress bomber crew recently during the 2023 AFGSC Operations Awards.

As explained by Airman 1st Class Laiken King , 2nd Bomb Wing, in the article Bomber crew earns AFGSC General Curtis E. LeMay award, while flying a B-52 from Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, to Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana the Scout 94 crew faced a life-threatening situation on Dec. 113, 2022. Capt. Charles Powell, 11th Bomb Squadron aircraft commander, now the Director of Staff, Lt. Col. John Conway, 11th Bomb Squadron radar navigator, now Air Combat Command Training Support Squadron Detachment 13 commander, and Capt. Matthew Walls, 343 Bomb Squadron copilot, now unit deployment manager were the three crew members aboard.

Uncontrolled left roll

As explained by Powell, the B-52 suddenly went into an uncontrolled left roll, descending rapidly and decelerating below normal approach speed after two of the aircraft’s electrical generators tripped off while avoiding severe thunderstorms and descending in altitude in preparation to land.

“The emergency was sudden and caused brief but extreme disorientation to myself and the other crew members,” said Walls. “All the systems kicked off at once, and the aircraft went completely dark, engines flamed out, and controlling the aircraft became a battle.”

B-52H crew earn award for skillfully recovering at 1,200 feet after 4 engines flamed out on one side
Capt. Charles Powell, 11th Bomb Squadron director of staff, Lt. Col. John Conway, Air Combat Command TRSS Detachment 13 commander, and Capt. Matthew Walls, 343 Bomb Squadron unit deployment manager, stand for their photo in front of a B-52H Stratofortress Jun. 3, 2024 at Barksdale Air Force Base, La. They recently earned the Air Force Global Strike Command General Curtis E. LeMay award for the outstanding bomber crew category for overcoming multiple failures during a flight, but still managing to land the aircraft safely.

The crew immediately began working to troubleshoot and correct the situation.

“As we began to lose altitude, I could hear Captain Powell call to restart the engines and he informed me that we had lost 4 engines on one side,” added Conway.

Approximately three minutes into the emergency, some of the asymmetrical load on the aircraft was alleviated after Powell successfully restarted engines three and four. As they navigated towards a safe landing, the crew declared an emergency with air traffic control and orchestrated a non-standard right turn, steering clear of the bad weather.

“I was very fortunate to have a crew who handled their responsibilities so I could focus on the one thing that mattered in the moment– fly the jet,” explained Powell.

B-52H crew earn award for skillfully recovering at 1,200 feet

The crew were able to remain calm despite the gravity of the situation. They exchanged altitude for airspeed, regaining control just as the aircraft approached a low altitude of 1,200 feet above ground level. The stakes were high considering the populated area of Bossier City, Louisiana, directly beneath them.

An Omega KDC-10 is the first commercial tanker to refuel USAF B-52, MC-130J over Pacific Ocean
This print is available in multiple sizes from Aircraftprofileprints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. B-52H Stratofortress 2nd BW, 20th BS, LA/60-0008 “Lucky Lady IV”.

“I believe that the reason Captain Powell was able to recover the aircraft safely is because he has trained to a six-engine approach many times and holds himself to a high standard when he trains,” said Conway. “This allowed him to instinctively fan the throttles and not make a bad situation worse by creating more of an asymmetric situation than we had.”

Approaching runway 15, the crew said they managed a six-engine landing despite the challenges they faced. The crew’s airmanship directly contributed to the successful recovery of the $84 million aircraft and the safety of its three-person crew, sparing the metropolitan area from potential catastrophe.

“Capt. Powell and Capt. Walls both performed admirably and with immense poise that day,” said Conway. “They were quick to respond to the situation, run the appropriate procedures, and fall back on their training.”

The Scout 94 crew overcame multiple catastrophic failures to safely land the aircraft, averting potential disaster in the air and on the ground.

The B-52H

The B-52H Stratofortress is a long-range, heavy bomber that can perform a variety of missions. The bomber is capable of flying at high subsonic speeds at altitudes of up to 50,000 feet (15,166.6 meters). It can carry nuclear or precision guided conventional ordnance with worldwide precision navigation capability.

For more than 60 years, B-52s have been the backbone of the strategic bomber force for the United States. The B-52 is capable of dropping or launching the widest array of weapons in the US inventory. This includes gravity bombs, cluster bombs, precision guided missiles and joint direct attack munitions. Updated with modern technology, the B-52 is 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. The Air Force currently expects to operate B-52s through 2050.

An Omega KDC-10 is the first commercial tanker to refuel USAF B-52, MC-130J over Pacific Ocean
This model is available from AirModels – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS.

Photo credit: Airman 1st Class Rhea Beil and Staff Sgt. Trevor McBride / U.S. Air Force


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Dario Leone

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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