The Newest B-52 Turns 50 Years Old This Year

The Boeing B-52 Stratofortress, a strategic bomber used by the US Air Force, first flew in 1952. The last one produced, Tail No. 1040, left the factory in October, 1961. It and nearly a hundred others are still in service:

“I don’t think anyone really knew this was going to be the last B-52 ever made,” said Robert Michel, the 5th Bomb Wing historian. “They expected it to be in service for probably about 20 years, (not close to) a hundred.”

With Tail No. 1040 and the rest of the Air Force’s B-52s scheduled to keep flying through 2040, there are several reasons why the B-52 has been flying for more than 50 years.

“I don’t think you can get a bomber that could replace the B-52 that will do everything the B-52 does,” Michel said.

That’s because the B-52 can perform nuclear deterrence and conventional operations, fly at both high and low altitudes while carrying nuclear and conventional bombs, cruise missiles or aerial mines, he said. “It’s like the Swiss Army bomber.”


Link -via Ace of Spades HQ | Photo: US Department of Defense

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The regular overhauls they undergo ensure their safety. They could keep them flying for a hundred years if they wanted to. Any part can be replaced for a tiny fraction of the cost of a new plane. I used to work at Kelly AFB (now closed) where they were overhauled and never tired of watching them taking off and landing.
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I flew that plane (1040) more than 20 years ago when we were both stationed in Spokane. It was old then! But I was always told that aircraft was built in 1961...
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