Boeing

Giving Wing to the B-52G -- and Watching Tex Take Off

By Ellis Winkler

August 2016

In an attempt to add to Boeing's 100th anniversary, I will supply information that I was directly involved with as a lab technician in the Structural Department at Wichita, Kan. My employment started in May 1958. This was my first job after graduation from the University of Houston.

My duties began as the B-52G model was going to be produced in regular production. Prior to this version of the B-52, all models A through F were "dry wing," with 3,000-gallon wing-tip fuel tanks and fuselage fuel tanks. The G model could carry around 8,000 gallons in the integral internal wing tanks, and the fuselage tanks could be eliminated.

After attending classes given by Mr. Bill Bean from the strain gauge supplying company, at least eight of us were ready to go to our test assignments. Boeing was still running a wing-cycle program on the B-47 in the hangar closest to the Oliver Street employee entrance gate. As a new hire, the first duty was to be on the third shift B-47 wing-cycle test. When this program ended, we went to the new Structural Lab building and did individual tests on B-52G pieces in the test machines. The first work for me in that building was to sit at a workstation, or work bench, and solder strain gauge connections on load cells that would be used in the wing destruction test.

From that duty I went to the BL-55 (Body Line) wing panel test, which was the panel area where the wing attached to the fuselage. This was the area that was the BL-45 panel in the B-47. That BL-55 was one of the strongest parts I worked with. Some of the future tests were with fiberglass samples, also with tests on honeycomb panels, and with specific parts, or sections of a total structure.

One of my luckiest duties was to be assigned to the outer wing fuel-tank test down at the fuel storage yard at the edge of the company property, or was probably the McConnell Air Force Base fuel yard.

Again I was on third shift and close to "clock out" time when I heard a B-52 take off on the north-south runway, making the most noise I had ever heard from any of the takeoffs. I stepped outside the building just in time to see Tex Johnston, Boeing's test pilot, perform the full-load climb test for the B-52G.

What a sight to see! That aircraft headed for the sky with all eight jet engines making it lift off at the end of the runway, as our commercial planes do today at any airport. That remains in my memories, and will remain there the rest of my life.

On the way back to the employee gate, I saw the final Stearman PT that had been produced at Plant I many years before takeoff for Wright-Patterson AFB to be placed in the museum.

In September 1960, I left Boeing to move back to Texas and work in San Antonio. My final structural test at Boeing was for a missile mounting on the side of the forward fuselage of the B-52G for launching missiles from high altitude.