Cold War Era

That Time a B-52 Aircrew Fell Asleep While RTB from a Bomb Run during the Vietnam War

“We were lead aircraft with #2 and #3 echeloned loosely behind us. Looking out my right window, I discovered #2 was slowly drawing abeam. Both #2 aircraft’s pilots were dead-ass asleep, with the plane on autopilot,” Jay Lacklen former B-52 pilot

Jay Lacklen is a former B-52 pilot with 12,500 flying hours and the author of two books, Flying the Line: An Air Force Pilot’s Journey and Flying the Line: An Air Force Pilot’s Journey Volume Two: Military Airlift Command. He’s working on the last book of the trilogy.

“Returning to Guam after my first bomb run, 1973.

On the following morning of this first bombing mission, as we flew east over the Pacific toward Guam into the rising sun, the utter exhaustion began to show.

This model is available in multiple sizes from AirModels – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS.

We were lead aircraft with #2 and #3 echeloned loosely behind us. Looking out my right window, I discovered #2 was slowly drawing abeam. I waited until he started getting ahead of us to start calling him. My calls went unanswered. For a while, both we and #3 tried to raise him on the radio without success. Both #2 aircraft’s pilots were dead-ass asleep, with the plane on autopilot.

Finally, about ten minutes later, #2’s wings began to dip left and right, as the pilots had awakened and were looking for the rest of us, hoping they were still in formation and could get away with having both gone to sleep. No such luck. We ribbed them severely as they moved back into the formation.

My policy, that I would instruct my students to follow when I became an instructor, demanded that you always inform the other pilot if you were going to take a nap. Sleeping was approved, and necessary, but not for both pilots at the same time.”

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”. Barksdale AFB, LA

Photo credit: U.S. Air Force

Artwork courtesy of AircraftProfilePrints.com

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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