Tail number 61-1007, or better known as the “Ghost Rider,” is once again flying the friendly skies thanks to her resurrection from the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base aircraft storage site known as the “Boneyard.”
CNN reports that the 53-year-old B-52 bomber has been residing in the Boneyard for the past 7 years, along with thousands of other retired aircraft. What makes Ghost Rider’s return so special is that this is the first time Air Force officials have returned a B-52 Bomber to duty.
The Shreveport Times reports the reason for the return of the bomber was to replace an existing B-52 at Barksdale AFB that has been damaged by fire during routine maintenance. An oxygen leak combined with a spark set the cockpit ablaze, injuring no one but the bomber itself.
There are only 76 B-52s, or Stratofortresses, in the Air Force’s fleet, with 58 of them in Active duty while 18 are in reserve.
When an aircraft is retired to the Boneyard for storage, it can either be scrapped and scavenged for parts, or make its way back into service once proper upgrades and repairs are made. The dry desert heat is ideal in helping to preserve the stored aircraft, but it also hard on soft components such as tires and fuel lines, causing dry rot.
In January, the lines and fuel bladders were completely replaced in Ghost Rider by the 307th Maintenance Squadron. The engine was then tested, and per Col. Keith Schultz, turned over just fine, without any flight control system issues. The whole restoration process took 70 days to complete.
Then in February, Ghost Rider, flown by Col. Keith Schultz, made its first flight in nearly seven years after its initial retirement. The three hour flight, which took the plane and its 3 man crew from Davis-Monthan to its new home, Barksdale Air Force Base in Shreveport, Louisiana, was an especially interesting one since the inertial and navigational equipment had not yet been installed.
For safety reasons, the plane also flew with its landing gear down the entire flight, and at an airspeed of 288 mph and height of 23,000 feet, far below its top air speed of 650 mph and 50,000 foot ceiling.
For the time being, Ghost Rider will reside next to the damaged bomber it is replacing, so the usable, updated equipment (like proper inertial and navigational equipment one hopes) can be transferred into it.
The reanimated B-52 bomber is slated to resume active service next year.
On a less than positive note, the Air Force made headlines made headlines earlier this year with its admittance to having a critical shortage of drone pilots. As reported by the Inquisitr, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James expressed concern that many of their pilots are nearing the end of the service commitments with not enough qualified personnel to fill the positions.
[Image courtesy of CNN]