Make Your Career Soar

Sixty-years ago this week, the USAF/Boeing YB-52 Stratofortress (S/N 49-231) all-jet strategic bomber took to the air on its maiden flight.  The crew for this historic event consisted of Boeing’s Alvin M. “Tex” Johnston (command pilot) and USAF Lt Col Guy M. Townsend (co-pilot).  The B-52 was designed by the Boeing Company for the United States Air Force in the 1940’s.  Its mission was to provide the Strategic Air Command (SAC) with a global nuclear strike capability.   As originally designed, the B-52 featured a top speed of 513 mph at 35,000 feet and a range of 6,005 nm for a gross take-off weight of 280,000 lbs.  Power was provided by an octet of Pratt and Whitney J-57 turbojets; each of which generated a maximum sea level thrust of about 10,000 lbs.  With a fuselage length of 160 feet, the B-52 was configured with a huge wing having a span of 185 feet and a leading edge sweep of 35 degrees.  The initial pair of prototype B-52 aircraft (S/N 49-230 and S/N 49-231)received the designation of XB-52.  However, the second XB-52 (S/N 49-231) was subsequently designated as the YB-52 and was the first B-52 airframe to fly.  It did so on Tuesday, 15 April 1952.  This 2.35-hour maiden flight originated from Boeing Field near Seattle, Washington and recovered at Larson AFB, Washington.  The big airplane performed well on its initial foray into the wild blue yonder and it was clear from the start that USAF and Boeing had a winner.  Indeed, the Stratofortress would go on to a storied career whose length and breadth could not have been foreseen by its creators.  The type’s speed, range and gross weight would increase over the years.  New and more powerful engines would provide the improved performance.  A total of 744 copies of the B-52 were built in eight (8) different production versions (B-52A through B-52H); roughly 90 of which are still flying.  Amazingly, three (3) generations of Air Force pilots have flown the aircraft.  With a service period that began in the Cold War and extends into the present, the B-52 Stratofortress holds the distinction of being the longest serving bomber aircraft in the history of military aviation.

Posted in Aerospace, History


J. Terry White April 12, 2012

Hello Sam,

I completely agree! And you should know since you actually got to work on the aircraft during SAC’s heyday. I remember making models of the B-52 back in the 1950’s. Hard to believe that the BUFF is still flying here in the 21st Century. And thank you for your service to our country!

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