B-52H Stratofortress “Wise Guy” has started flying from Tinker Air Force Base after Programmed Depot Maintenance, prepares to return to active service.
“Wise Guy”, the B-52H Stratofortress bomber tail number 60-034, is preparing to return to service with the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota. The aircraft was filmed flying from Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, where the aircraft had arrived on Apr. 1, 2020, to undergo programmed depot maintenance at the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex. The PDM is the final part of a three-phase process to regenerate the aircraft and make it able to return back to active service as a conventional weapons-only long range heavy bomber.
The video below shows “Wise Guy” flying a test sortie from Tinker AFB in anticipation of its return to Minot AFB.
After logging more than 17,000 flight hours, “Wise Guy” was retired at the 309th AMARG (Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group) at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona, in 2008. In the cockpit, an anonymous note read: “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.”
The aircraft was supposed to remain there be cannibalized of parts needed by front-line BUFFs and never to fly again. But the plan changed more or less at 08.30AM LT on May 19, 2016, when a B-52H Stratofortress bomber belonging to the 69th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, crashed during take off from Andersen AFB, in Guam. Althought the 7 people on board escaped safely from the aircraft, shortly thereafter, the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center was asked to regenerate an aircraft from storage at AMARG to restore the fleet to the Congressional-mandated 76 aircraft.
And “Wise Guy” was selected to fill the vacancy and to be resurrected after 10 years at the “Boneyard”.
“Wise Guy” was selected and some pre-planning and structural inspections began December 2018 in preparations for a formal kick off January 2019. The inspections were completed by the 76th Expeditionary Depot Maintenance Flight, a part of the 76th Aircraft Maintenance Group, at OC-ALC, and a contract non-destructive inspection team from Boeing, says an official release.
A team of 13 to 20 maintainers worked on the B-52 at AMARG, to prepare it to be moved to Barksdale AFB for further repairs, a move that could be successfully completed on May 14, 2019.
“The jet had cracks in the rear landing gear and was missing two engines,” said Col. Robert Burgess, 307th Operations Group commander and pilot who flew the BUFF from Davis Monthan AFB to Barksdale AFB, on that day. “It also needed all its fuels cells and hoses replaced, as well as its tires.”
“Wise Guy” also needed its egress system overhauled, said Master Sgt. Greg Barnhill, 307th Maintenance Squadron egress shop supervisor. An egress system allows the aircrew to bail out of the aircraft in case of an emergency.
“All of our parts for repairing the ejections seats were basically in a five-gallon bucket,” he said. “It was like putting together a jigsaw puzzle.”
Once the maintainers completed the necessary repairs, they ran multiple tests on the engines, landing gear, fuel and egress systems to ensure the jet was flight worthy. The subsequent flight to Barksdale AFB was conducted by a three-man crew with a total of more than 10,000 flying hours on the type. They flew the aircraft “low and slow” all the way to Louisiana.
When the aircraft touched down at Barksdale, phase two began, bringing “Wise Guy” up to common fleet standards. The activities were completed in little less than one year and the B-52 could be then transferred to Tinker AFB for the last phase: the PDM process, a series of heavy checks, normally executed every 48 months on the B-52, during which the aircraft is almost completely disassembled and each part is inspected and all defects are fixed before they are rebuilt and sent back to their home stations as they were (almost) brand new.
After the PDM inspections are completed the aircraft performs a series of test flights before it is “accepted” again and sent back to its squadron.
Based on the video above, “Wise Guy” has been restored and flying ahead of its return to Minot AFB, North Dakota, where it will re-enter service and restore the fleet to 76 aircraft.
This is only the second time a B-52H bomber has been regenerated to active service from the “Boneyard” at AMARG. The first B-52H bomber, nicknamed “Ghost Rider,” tail number 61-007, was regenerated at Tinker in 2015.
H/T to Steve Fortson for the heads-up!