Tag Archives: B-52H-170-BW

10 January 1964

Boeing B-52H-170-BW 61-023
Boeing B-52H-170-BW Stratofortress 61-023. (U.S. Air Force)

10 January 1964: This Boeing B-52H Stratofortress, serial number 61-023, flown by Boeing test pilot Charles F. (“Chuck”) Fisher, was conducting structural testing in turbulence near East Spanish Peak, Colorado. The other crew members were pilots Richard V. Curry and Leo Coer, and navigator James Pittman. Dick Curry was flying the airplane and Chuck Fisher, the aircraft commander, was in the co-pilot’s position. Pittman was on the lower deck.

The bomber was carrying two North American Aviation GAM-77 Hound Dog cruise missiles on pylons under its wings.

The Boeing B-52 Stratofortress had been designed as a very high altitude penetration bomber, but changes in Soviet defensive systems led the Strategic Air Command to change to very low altitude flight as a means of evading radar. This was subjecting the airframes to unexpected stresses. “Ten-Twenty-Three” (its serial number was 61-023, shortened on the vertical fin to “1023”) had been returned to Boeing Wichita by the Air Force to be instrumented to investigate the effects of high-speed, low-altitude flight on the 245-ton bomber.

Flying at 14,300 feet (4,359 meters) and 345 knots (397 miles per hour, 639 kilometers per hour), indicated air speed, the airplane encountered severe clear air turbulence and lost the vertical stabilizer. Several B-52s had been lost under similar circumstances. (Another, a B-52D, was lost just three days later at Savage Mountain, Maryland.)

East Spanish Peak (left), 12,688 feet (3,867 meters) and West Spanish Peak, 13,626 feet (4,153 meters), Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Colorado. (Footwarrior)
East Spanish Peak (left), 12,688 feet (3,867 meters) and West Spanish Peak, 13,626 feet (4,153 meters), Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Colorado. (Footwarrior)
Charles F. Fisher. (Argenta Images)
Charles F. Fisher. (Argenta Images)

Chuck Fisher immediately took control of the B-52. He later reported,

“As the encounter progressed, a very sharp-edged blow which was followed by many more. We developed an almost instantaneous rate of roll at fairly high rate. The roll was to the far left and the nose was swinging up and to the right at a rapid rate. During the second portion of the encounter, the airplane motions actually seemed to be negating my control inputs. I had the rudder to the firewall, the column in my lap, and full wheel, and I wasn’t having any luck righting the airplane. In the short period after the turbulence I gave the order to prepare to abandon the airplane because I didn’t think we were going to keep it together.”

A Boeing report on the incident, based on installed sensors and instrumentation aboard -023, said that the bomber had

“. . . flown through an area containing the combined effects of a (wind) rotor associated with a mountain wave and lateral shear due to airflow around a mountain peak. . . Gust initially built up from the right to a maximum of about 45 feet per second [13.7 meters per second] (TAS), then reversed to a maximum of 36 feet per second [11 meters per second] from the left, before swinging to a maximum of about 147 feet per second [44.8 meters per second] from the left followed by a return to 31 feet per second [9.5 meters per second].”

Fisher flew the bomber back to Wichita and was met by a F-100 Super Sabre chase plane. When the extent of the damage was seen, the B-52 was diverted due to the gusty winds in Kansas. Six hours after the damage occurred, Chuck Fisher safely landed the airplane at Eaker Air Force Base, Blythville, Arkansas. He said it was, “the finest airplane I’ve ever flown.”

Boeing B-52H-170-BW Stratofortress 61-023, "Ten-Twenty-Three", after losing the vertical fin, 10 January 1964. (Boeing)
Boeing B-52H-170-BW Stratofortress 61-023, “Ten-Twenty-Three”, after losing the vertical fin, 10 January 1964. (Boeing)

61-023 was repaired and returned to service. It remained active with the United States Air Force until it was placed in storage at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, 24 July 2008.

Charles F. Fisher and the Boeing test crew with B-52H Stratofortress 61-023. (Boeing)
Charles F. Fisher at left,  and the Boeing test crew with B-52H Stratofortress 61-023. (Boeing)

The B-52H is a sub-sonic, swept wing, long-range strategic bomber. It has a crew of five. The airplane is 159 feet, 4 inches (48.6 meters) long, with a wing span of 185 feet (56.4 meters). It is 40 feet, 8 inches (12.4 meters) high to the top of the vertical fin. Maximum Takeoff Weight (MTOW) is 488,000 pounds (221,353 kilograms).

There are eight Pratt & Whitney TF33-PW-3 turbofan engines mounted in two-engine pods suspended under the wings on four pylons. Each engine produces a maximum of 17,000 pounds of thrust (75.620 kilonewtons). The TF-33 is a two-spool axial-flow turbofan engine with 2 fan stages, 14-stage compressor stages (7 stage intermediate pressure, 7 stage high-pressure) and and 4-stage turbine (1 stage high-pressure, 3-stage low-pressure). The engine is 11 feet, 10 inches (3.607 meters) long, 4 feet, 5.0 inches (1.346 meters) in diameter and weighs 3,900 pounds (15,377 kilograms).

The B-52H can carry approximately 70,000 pounds (31,750 kilograms) of ordnance, including free-fall bombs, precision-guided bombs, thermonuclear bombs and cruise missiles, naval mines and anti-ship missiles.

The bomber’s cruise speed is 520 miles per hour (837 kilometers per hour) and its maximum speed is 650 miles per hour (1,046 kilometers per hour) at 23,800 feet (7,254 meters) at a combat weight of 306,350 pounds. Its service ceiling is 47,700 feet (14,539 meters) at the same combat weight. The unrefueled range is 8,000 miles (12,875 kilometers).

With inflight refueling, the Stratofortress’s range is limited only by the endurance of its five-man crew.

The B-52H is the only version still in service. 102 were built and as of 27 September 2016, 76 are still in service. Beginning in 2013, the Air Force began a fleet-wide technological upgrade for the B-52H, including a digital avionics and communications system, as well as an internal weapons bay upgrade. The bomber is expected to remain in service until 2040.

Boeing B-52H-170-BW Stratofortress 61-023 taxiing at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota. (Senior Airman Cassandra Jones, U.S. Air Force)
Boeing B-52H-170-BW Stratofortress 61-023 taxiing at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota. (Senior Airman Cassandra Jones, U.S. Air Force)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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24 June 1994, 14:16 PDT (21:16 UTC)

Boeing B-52H-170-BW Stratofortress 61-0026, CZAR FIVE TWO, 2:16 p.m. PDT, 24 June 1994. (U.S. Air Force)

24 June 1994: At Fairchild Air Force Base, southwest of Spokane, Washington, a Boeing B-52H-170-BW Stratofortress, serial number 61-0026, call sign Czar Five Two, was being flown by Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Alan (“Bud”) Holland, the aircraft commander, with Lieutenant Colonel Mark C. McGeehan, commanding officer of the 325th Bomb Squadron, as the co-pilot. The vice commanding officer of the 92nd Bomb Wing, Colonel Robert E. Wolff, was aboard as the designated safety observer. The fourth crew member, Lieutenant Colonel Kenneth S. Horton, the 325th squadron operations officer, was the radar navigator.

The mission was a practice flight for an upcoming air show demonstration. During the 18 minute flight, virtually every maneuver performed by Lieutenant Colonel Holland exceeded the operating limitations of the B-52, and violated Air Force and Federal Aviation Administration regulations.¹

Bud Holland was notorious for his reckless flying. Many crew members had asked not to be assigned to fly with him. Many prior instances of dangerous flying had occurred. Officers in Holland’s chain of command were aware of these violations, but seemed to tolerate them. Only Lieutenant Colonel McGeehan had tried to have Holland grounded, but he was overruled.

Lieutenant Colonel Bud Holland makes a very low pass with a B-52 Stratofortress at the Yakima bombing range. (U.S. Air Force)
Lieutenant Colonel Bud Holland makes a very low, high-speed pass with a B-52 Stratofortress at the Yakima bombing range. (U.S. Air Force)

Apparently, Holland thought that he was such a great pilot that he could make the B-52 do anything.

While approaching the runway for a touch-and-go, the control tower instructed Czar 52 to go around because of another aircraft that had just landed and was still on the runway. Holland requested to make a left 360° turn around the tower, which was approved.

At an altitude of just 250 feet (76 meters)—the B-52’s wingspan is 185 feet—Holland put the bomber into a nearly 90° left bank. As he approached the 270° point of the turn, Czar 52‘s wings went beyond the 90° point. Holland added power, but no amount of power could keep the B-52 in the air, now. The bomber simply fell out of the sky, impacting the ground with a 95° angle of bank and 150 knots (278 kilometers per hour) indicated air speed. Lieutenant Colonel McGeehan fired his ejection seat, but did not escape before impact. All four officers were killed.

The following You Tube video shows the actual crash of Czar 52. Other videos available on the internet show the entire air show practice, as well as previous examples of Holland’s dangerous flying.

The crash of Czar Five Two is an example of Command Failure. Everyone in the chain of command knew that Bud Holland was a dangerous pilot, but no one, with the exception of Lieutenant Colonel McGeehan, tried to stop him.

61-0026 was one of the last B-52 bombers built by Boeing before production ended in 1962. It was accepted by the U.S. Air Force on 2 June 1962.

The B-52H is a sub-sonic, swept wing, long-range strategic bomber. It was originally operated by a crew of six: two pilots, a navigator and a radar navigator, an electronic warfare officer, and a gunner. (The gunner was eliminated after 1991). The airplane is 159 feet, 4 inches (48.565 meters) long, with a wing span of 185 feet (56.388 meters). It is 40 feet, 8 inches (12.395 meters) high to the top of the vertical fin. The B-52H uses the vertical fin developed for the B-52G, which is 22 feet, 11 inches (6.985 meters) tall. This is 7 feet, 8 inches (2.337 meters) shorter than the fin on the XB-52–B-52F aircraft, but the fin’s chord is longer.

The wings of the B-52H have a total area of 4,000 square feet (371.6 square meters). The leading edges are swept aft to 36° 58′. The angle of incidence is 6°, and there is 2° 30′ dihedral. (The wings are very flexible and exhibit pronounced anhedral when on the ground.) To limit twisting in flight, the B-52H has spoilers on top of the wings rather than ailerons at the trailing edges.

The bomber has an empty weight of 172,740 pounds (78,354 kilograms) and its Maximum Takeoff Weight (MTOW) is 488,000 pounds (221,353 kilograms).

Boeing B-52H-170-BW Stratofortress 61-0026, circa 1978. The bomber is painted in the “SIOP” camouflage scheme.

The most significant difference between the B-52H and the earlier Stratofortresses is the replacement of the eight Pratt & Whitney J57-series turbojet engines with eight Pratt & Whitney Turbo Wasp JT3D-2 (TF33-P-3) turbofans, which are significantly more efficient. They are quieter and don’t emit the dark smoke trails of the turbojets.

The TF-33 is a two-spool axial-flow turbofan engine with 2 fan stages, a 14-stage compressor section (7-stage intermediate pressure, 7-stage high-pressure) and and a 4-stage turbine (1-stage high-pressure, 3-stage low-pressure). The TF33-P-3 has a maximum continuous power rating of 14,500 pounds of thrust (64.499 kilonewtons) at 9,750 r.p.m., N1. Military Power, limited to 30 minutes, is 16,500 pounds (73.396 kilonewtons) at 10,000 r.p.m., N1. Each engine produces a maximum of 17,000 pounds of thrust (75.620 kilonewtons) at 10,050 r.p.m., N1, with a 5-minute limit. The TF33-P-3 is 11 feet, 4.32 inches (3.4625 meters) long, 4 feet, 4.93 inches (1.3442 meters) in diameter and weighs 3,900 pounds (1,769 kilograms).

The B-52H has a cruise speed of 456 knots (525 miles per hour/845 kilometers per hour). It has a maximum speed, with Military Power, of 555 knots (639 miles per hour/1,028 kilometers per hour) at 20,700 feet (6,309 meters)—0.906 Mach. The service ceiling is 46,900 feet (14,295 meters). The unrefueled range is 8,000 miles (12,875 kilometers). With inflight refueling, its range is limited only by the endurance of its crew.

The B-52H was armed with a 20mm M61A1 Vulcan six-barreled rotary cannon in a remotely-operated tail turret. The gun had a rate of fire of 4,000 rounds per minute, and had a magazine capacity of 1,242 rounds. After 1991, the gun and its radar system were removed from the bomber fleet. The flight crew was reduced to five.

The B-52H can carry a wide variety of conventional free-fall or guided bombs, land-attack or anti-ship cruise missiles, and thermonuclear bombs or cruise missiles. These can be carried both in the internal bomb bay or on underwing pylons. The bomb load is approximately 70,000 pounds (31,751 kilograms).

At the time of the crash, 61-0026 had a total of 12,721.5 hours on its airframe. It was the only B-52 remaining at Fairchild AFB and had been meticulously maintained and inspected. There were no discrepancies related to the accident. It was valued at $73,700,000.

Boeing B-52H-170-BW Stratofortress 61-0026. (U.S. Air Force)
Boeing B-52H-170-BW Stratofortress 61-0026. (U.S. Air Force)

Arthur Alan (“Bud”) Holland was born 7 September 1947, in Suffolk, Virginia. He was the son of Arthur Leroy and Virginia Holland.

Holland attended Campbell University, Bules Creek, North Carolina, where he was a cadet in Reserve Officers Training Corps. He received a commission as a second lieutenant, United States Air Force Reserve in January 1971.

Holland and his wife, Sarah Anne, had two daughters, Heather Lee and Mary Margaret.

At the time of his death, Holland had served in the U.S. Air Force for over 23 years. He was a rated Command Pilot with a total of 5,275.3 flying hours, with 5,038.3 hours in the B-52 series (61.1 hours combat, B-52G).

Holland’s remains were interred at Fairmont Memorial Park, Spokane, Washington.

¹ In the official U.S. Air Force Aircraft Accident Investigation Board report (AFR 110-14), the list of regulations and technical orders violated by Lieutenant Colonel Holland on this 18 minute flight takes up three full pages (Page 23, 24, and 25).

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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