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The B-52 is history in action

B-52 tail number 61-040, an H model, performs a flight test in August 1962

Boeing

B-52 tail number 61-040, an H model, performs a flight test in August 1962 before being delivered to the United States Air Force on October 26, 1962.

October 26 was the 50th anniversary of the last B-52 delivered to Strategic Air Command. Tail number 61-040 was assigned to Minot Air Force Base, ND and though it has been assigned to multiple other locations in its 50-year history, 1040 is back at Minot AFB with the 5th Bomb Wing, being flown by today’s third generation of B-52 pilots.

Boeing performed flight test on the B-52 platform and built 744 bombers from 1952 to 1962. Dale Felix, a Boeing flight test engineer, flew every model of the B-52 during that time.

“We did all the experimental testing, defining the limits of the airplane to its maximum ability,” said Felix, now 82 years old. “And I guess there were so many experiments associated with it, that it was very satisfying to be able to achieve the design limits.”

A B-52 Stratofortress with tail number 61-040 parked on the flight line at Andersen Air Force, Guam May 4

U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Carlin Leslie

A B-52 Stratofortress with tail number 61-040 parked on the flight line at Andersen Air Force, Guam May 4. This aircraft was the last B-52 to roll off the production line 50 years ago, and the last delivered and now has logged more than 21,500 flight hours. The B-52 is from the 5th Bomb Wing, Minot Air Force base, and was recently deployed to Andersen Air Force Base as part of the continuous bomber presence in the Pacific arena.

The B-52H was the only model equipped with the Pratt & Whitney TF-33-P-3 engines, which are still in use today, giving it greater unrefueled range. During the early 2000s the fleet went through avionics upgrades. Equipment that was quickly becoming obsolete was replaced and upgraded processors and software were installed. Current engineering analyses show the remarkable B-52’s lifespan could extend beyond the year 2040.