Return of the ‘Ghost Rider’

For the first time a B-52 is regenerated from Tucson's Boneyard. ( Photo by Davis Monthan Air Force Base)
For the first time a B-52 is regenerated from Tucson's Boneyard. ( Photo by Davis Monthan Air Force Base)
For the first time a B-52 is regenerated from Tucson’s Boneyard. (Photo by Davis Monthan Air Force Base)

For the very first time, a Boeing B-52 Stratofortress has moved from the boneyard back into the sky again. The veteran bomber took off from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona for the first time following its restoration on Friday, the 13th of February. Technicians at the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group, otherwise known as AMARG, pulled the BUFF from the massive storage yard beside Davis-Monthan during 2014 to replace a damaged aircraft in the active fleet which the Air Force deemed beyond economic repair.

Some of the thirteen B-52Hs in 1000-level storage at AMARG during March, 2014. (photo by Richard Mallory Allnutt)
Some of the thirteen B-52Hs in 1000-level storage at AMARG during March, 2014. (photo by Richard Mallory Allnutt)

The newly restored Stratofortress, serial number 61-0007, had been in 1000-level storage at AMARG alongside twelve other B-52Hs, far away from the ragged, chopped up Stratofortress carcasses on the other side of the boneyard. Unlike other 1000-level aircraft, or inviolate storage where an airframe is made safe and preserved without losing any parts to salvage, these bombers are looked after in a far more detailed and careful fashion at AMARG. Each Stratofortress in this small group has its own plane captain at the base whose primary responsibility is to monitor its health regularly and quickly intercede when maintenance is necessary. This practice has clearly shown its worth, judging by the mere months it took to return the aircraft to flight following years of storage.

Some of the many chopped up B-52s remaining at AMARG. Even though these aircraft were purposefully rendered irretrievably ground-bound, they still contain many valuable parts to keep the active fleet flying, which is the reason so many are kept beyond the necessary waiting time for the Russians to verify their destruction. (photo by Richard Mallory Allnutt)
Some of the many chopped up B-52s remaining at AMARG. Even though these aircraft were purposefully rendered irretrievably ground-bound, they still contain many valuable parts to keep the active fleet flying, which is the reason so many are kept beyond the necessary waiting time for the Russians to verify their destruction. (photo by Richard Mallory Allnutt)

Nicknamed “Ghost Rider”, ‘007 last served with the 5th Bomb Wing from Minot AFB before going into storage in the mid-2000s. The AMARG team selected her for regeneration because, of the thirteen B-52Hs in storage, she was in the best condition and had the lowest airframe hours. In fact she is in such good shape that members of her maintenance team felt ‘Ghost Rider’ was better off than several active airframes currently serving.

'007 'The Ghost Rider' in storage at AMARG in March, 2014 during a visit by WarbirdsNews. (photo by Richard Mallory Allnutt)
‘007 ‘The Ghost Rider’ in storage at AMARG in March, 2014 during a visit by WarbirdsNews. (photo by Richard Mallory Allnutt)

‘Ghost Rider’ was present at AMARG in March, 2014 when WarbirdsNews paid the facility a visit, and we have included an image above to show what she looked like then. Technicians from the 309th alongside those from Tinker AFB (responsible for B-52 depot-level maintenance) swiftly returned the bomber back into flying trim. She departed Davis-Monthan yesterday for Barksdale AFB near Bossier City, Louisiana. Colonel Keith Schultz, CO of the 307th Operations Group, 307th Bomb Wing at Barksdale AFB commanded the flight. He has been flying BUFFs since 1980, and is the “last of the Tall-Tail” pilots still actively flying the Stratofortress; “Tall-Tail” being the nickname for early-model B-52s which had much taller tail fins than the G and H models. Schultz has more than 7,000 hours in B-52s. In an article HERE, Colonel Schultz said “After delivering eighteen B-52D and G models to the “Boneyard” over the years, it is about time I get to take one out.”

While at Barksdale AFB, members of the 76th AMXG from Tinker AFB will remove modifications from the damaged B-52 that ‘007 is replacing and transfer them to the freshly restored airframe. At the same time, local Barksdale maintenance teams will inspect the airframe and repair as necessary. Once these details are complete sometime in late 2015, ‘Ghost Rider’ will fly to Tinker AFB in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma for Program Depot Maintenance to bring her in line with the rest of the fleet. The fifty year old bomber is expected to return to front line service sometime in 2016.

For the first time a B-52 is regenerated from Tucson's Boneyard_
‘Ghost Rider’ taking off from Davis-Monthan AFB on Friday, January 13th bound for Barksdale AFB in Louisiana. (AF photo)

24 Comments

  1. This response is for the ghost rider. The majority of the work was done by members from Barksdale: 307th, 2nd, 707th and the 5th mxs from Minot.

  2. Does anyone have access to the history of this bird? Was it perhaps ever in the 449th Bomb Wing @ Kincheloe AFB? I am asking because I believe I have flown in this bird @ the Kinch. Thanks, Stan

    • Of you Google AMARG or AMARC it should come up. you have to search a little but you can probably find out it’s assignment history. I just saw one on there that was signed to the 449th with a couple of guys that crewed it. Maybe even to the original manufacturer web site. Wikipedia also may have a link to it. There is an extensive history of the C-141 on the C141 Heaven web site. Good luck

    • I don’t think this bird was at Kincheloe… My logic being that the first batch of “H” models were delivered to Wurtsmith in 1961. #0001 was called the State of Michigan and the first 20 bombers served at WAFB until 1977 when they were swapped with Ellsworth G models.

      I also learned the following:

      “The reason Ellsworth and Wurtsmith swapped aircraft was because the H had more powerful TF33 engines and Ellsworth was located at a pressure altitude of around 3500 feet. Ironically, the swap created more problems than it solved which crew members discovered prior to the swap. I was on a Stan/Eval crew that went to Wurtsmith to train on the H and during the training we decided to see just how good the H would do with an EWO load at high temperatures at Ellsworth’s higher pressure altitude. We discovered that we couldn’t launch above 95 degrees F without downloading fuel. Passed that information on to HQ SAC and they told us we were nuts. That summer when the temp hit 95 sure enough we had fuel bowsers out on the alert pad to download about 12000 pounds of fuel. Turns out the Gs water injected engines actually put out more thrust until water run out than the Hs TF33s because they were flat rated to about 110 degrees F. “

  3. Was a assistan crew chief on the 52Ds out of Guam, asked not to go that night of May 10th, 1969 because they where cutting their trip short that night and not taking me the plane to Okanwa for repairs after their bomb drop. I rode all the way to the end the runway before the pilot asked to get off and meet them when they returned. Never Did!

  4. This being the first B-52 regenerated from AMARG is technically not true as an “F” model was regenerated and flown to Lowry AFB, CO many years ago to serve as a weapons load trainer where it remained until the mid 90’s when Lowry closed. This is more accurately the first to return to combat status.

    • That is interesting news Robert… Many thanks for posting. We were going off what Air Force personnel had stated. The F-model you mentioned sounds like it was ferried to Lowry AFB for use as a static trainer, rather than actually returning to combat status. We’d love to know more about this story though if you have any details

  5. there were two B52s at Lowry AFB when I was there in the 80s. One was a static display that is still there as part of an air museum, although Lowry closed in the 90s. The runways there were shut down in the 60s, so they must have come in before then. They would have had to dismantle the trainer to move it when the base closed. I think the static display was a D model.

  6. I wish the rather short sighted British government would have done to many of our retired air assets. Vulcans, Nimrods, Harriers and Jaguars could of all been reutalised and restored. We don’t have an airforce any more and could do with some aircraft to punish ISIS in Iraq, or if that prat starts playing up down there in Argentina over the Falklands again, what have we got? SWEET F/A.

  7. So great to see one coming back to life. The reenging of these aircraft will bring amazing capability to them until LRS-B is fielded sometime in 2037 or so. It should have been reengined years ago but now the AF are serious about going and just doing it.

  8. 61-007 wasn’t chosen because she had the lowest airframe hours. Structures engineers from the SPO inspected several H-models at AMARG and chose 61-007 based upon condition.

  9. Is there more than one B-model 007?
    Why? I served on 007, a B Model at Castle AFB, CA. 328th Bomb Sq.back in 1959, a high tail.
    This news seems to be another?
    Looking for an answer. Gene

    • Interesting stuff Gene… The aircraft in question is an H-Model from a different fiscal year, 1961, so it seems there were two 007 B-52s… Pretty cool.

  10. There were Buffs from the 59 series, the 60 and 61 series at Minot. I do remember one or two having the same last digits.

  11. I was a crew chief on this aircraft while it was at Kincheloe AFB, MI. What great memories I have from working on this aircraft. I was there from 1975 until 1977. I was in the 449th OMS.

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