Scrapped B-52 bomber to return to service after rescue from the boneyard
A retired Cold War US Air Force B-52 Stratofortress strategic bomber has been rescued from an Arizona boneyard where it has sat since 2008, and is being returned to active duty. Nicknamed "Wise Guy," it has been made flightworthy and flew from the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) to Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, on May 14, 2019, where it will be completely restored.
The US B-52 fleet, which first took to the air 67 years ago, is the world's oldest heavy strategic bomber force, with planes being flown by crews that are grandchildren of the original pilots.
There are 58 still in active service and 18 in reserve out of 744 that were built, but the current shrunken fleet isn't due to attrition so much as to a series of strategic arms treaties with the Soviet Union and Russia that restrict the total number of bombers. That means that places like the AMARG boneyard are home to a lot B-52s that were perfectly flightworthy, but have been left to bake in the sun while technicians treated them like Christmas trees with wings that they could raid for spare parts.
One example is "Wise Guy," which probably would have gone the way of all good aircraft if it hadn't been for an incident on May 19, 2016 when a B-52H crashed and caught fire on Guam due to a botched takeoff abort. This meant that the Air Force could reactivate one of the mothballed bombers and "Wise Guy" was selected. The last time there was a reactivation was the B-52 "Ghost Rider," which was brought back to service in 2015.
According to the Air Force, "Wise Guy" has flown 17,000 hours and the years on the ground have taken their toll so it took four months to make the plane flightworthy. Two engines were missing, the rear landing gear was cracked, and the fuel cells, tires, and hoses needed replacing. In addition, the ejection seats had to be repaired using a bucket of spare parts. This was followed by extensive ground tests before the flight to Louisiana.
"Wise Guy" will now be the center of a US$30-million restoration by 550 technicians that is scheduled to be complete by 2021.
In an interesting bit of prophecy, the cockpit of "Wise Guy" contained a metal clipboard with the following written on it in black marker, "AMARG, this is 60-034, a cold warrior that stood sentinel over America from the darkest days of the Cold War to the global fight against terror. Take good care of her….until we need her again."
Source: US Air Force