TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. --
The only two B-52H “Stratofortress” bombers to be resurrected from the Arizona desert have been undergoing programmed depot maintenance at the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex.
Ghost Rider, the first of the bombers to be brought back to life, returned to service in 2015 after being mothballed for seven years at the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group’s National-Level Airpower Reservoir located at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona. Wise Guy spent 10 years in the desert before being resurrected late last year.
Ghost Rider, tail number 61-007, is currently undergoing routine PDM. This is an intensive process where the team inspects, repairs, modifies and restores the aircraft to ensure serviceability and prolongs its service life. According to Dan Frey, 565th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Production Flight chief, each B-52 in the fleet undergoes PDM every four years.
On Dec. 30, 2020, Wise Guy, tail number 60-034, finished the process of regeneration that formally began in 2018 with an in-depth structural analysis and logistics support review completed by the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s B-52 System Program Office to bring the aircraft back to active service. When Wise Guy rejoins the fleet, it will join Ghost Rider at the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot AFB, North Dakota, and will bring the number of B-52 bombers mandated by Congress to full strength at 76 aircraft.
Though they are both the same type of aircraft, there were many challenges to overcome with each aircraft as it travelled through the regeneration process.
John Raihl, 565th AMXS aircraft section chief, said the biggest challenge with Ghost Rider was establishing a plan to ensure all required inspections, maintenance, and modifications were accomplished on schedule and within budget. The plan was implemented in coordination with the B-52 System Program Office, Logistics and Engineering, as well as the 76th Aircraft Maintenance Group’s 76th Expeditionary Depot Maintenance Flight.
“Using scripting tools, the enterprise team drafted a script that achieved this in addition to maximizing concurrent work across different maintenance disciplines,” said Raihl.
Wise Guy presented the enterprise team with a different challenge: two major electrical wiring projects.
“Rewire I and II projects were the biggest challenges due to the scope of the project, as well as the limited experience we had with those specific wire bundles,” Jennifer Smith, 565th AMXS avionics/electric section chief, said.
Main landing gear structural defects also presented unique challenges for Wise Guy during the initial regeneration phase, as well as during the PDM cycle.
Travis Reese, AFLCMC lead regeneration engineer, said, “Repairs necessary to prepare Wise Guy for first flight presented risk to the overall project. Additionally, these temporary repairs had to be removed and permanently addressed, adding scope and complexity for the technicians in the 565th AMXS structural repair section.”
Additionally, the 76th Commodities Maintenance Group partners had to manufacture all of the wire harnesses from original drawings. This process alone took more than four months prior to the aircraft arriving at Tinker Air Force Base, Smith said.
Lessons learned from regenerating Ghost Rider enabled the enterprise team to apply what they learned when working on Wise Guy.
“By utilizing enterprise team meetings ahead of the aircraft’s arrival, we were able to expand Ghost Rider’s process script into a precise script,” said Mike Bassham, 565th AMXS sheet metal section chief. The script process enabled the team to measure milestones for all major jobs for the purpose of keeping the aircraft on schedule and determining where they needed to apply additional resources to tackle constraints, he added.
Jeff Base, 565th AMXS director, explained that hundreds of people across the OC-ALC are involved in regenerating and, or overhauling aircraft requiring a total Team Tinker effort.
“AFLCMC provides engineering and logistics support, the 76th EDMX traveled to the 309th AMARG to prepare aircraft for flight after years in storage, the 76th CMXG overhauls and manufactures parts, the 76th Propulsion Maintenance Group overhauls engines and manufactures parts,” Base said.
David Strawderman, AFLCMC’s B-52 System Program Office regeneration project manager, echoed Base’s comments, adding the motivation and dedication of everyone involved ensured both regeneration programs were successful.
“For Wise Guy, over 100 personnel from nine organizations supported critical maintenance tasks to deliver the aircraft from AMARG to Tinker – in less than four months,” he said. “The abilities are truly remarkable and a testament to the resolve of the B-52 enterprise.”
In addition to the production side, Base said the OC-ALC, 76th AMXG Business Offices and the 76th Maintenance Support Group ensure the team has the resources, while the 76th Software Maintenance Group provides the required software. The 565th AMXS has over 600 people, Base said, and each person will either touch the aircraft or support it at some point during the PDM cycle.
Jason Puder, 565th AMXS deputy director, summed up the importance of regenerating aircraft to provide combat air power to America’s warfighters.
“The success of regenerating these two aircraft has proven the Air Force’s ability to generate war power. Hidden in the details are countless hours of planning, engineering, logistics, and maintenance that began the moment the aircraft entered long-term storage at Davis-Monthan AFB until the culmination of each aircraft departing Tinker AFB fully airworthy again years later,” said Puder.
“The PDM effort was just one of many obstacles overcome, which, ideally, are unnoticed by the frontline Airmen charged with maintaining and flying these aircraft going forward,” Puder added.