USAF brings B-52 in graveyard back to service, repaired with “parts found in bucket”

A B-52 Stratofortress, nicknamed “Wise Guy,” makes its final approach to Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, May 14, 2019. The bomber was flown out of the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group, also known as the “Boneyard”, where it had been since 2008. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Ted Daigle)

A 60-year-old B-52H Stratofortress has been dusted off and pulled out an Air Force “Boneyard” in Arizona and is now cleared for duty.

Retired over 11 years ago, “Wise Guy” was removed from the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monathan Air Force Base in Arizona earlier this month. It then returned to Barksdale, Louisiana following a refurbishment process.

Interred in 2008, “Wise Guy” will replace a B-52 that was destroyed when it crashed in Guam in 2015. With “Wise Guy” back, the B-52 fleet will return to the desired fleet size of 76 aircraft.

Most, if not all B-52s are older than the crews flying them. The aircraft are known for their reliability. The plan has served the United States during the Cold War and beyond.

B-52s such as “Wise Guy” once patrolled the world 24/7 while armed with nuclear weapons during Operation “Chrome Dome.” It’s possible that “Wise Guy” was part of that operation, which went from 1960 to 1968. In fact, “Wise Guy” has about 17,000 flight hours logged.

The 307th Bomb Wing was pretty happy to see “Wise Guy” back in action.

“Wise Guy is back!” the unit said on their Facebook page earlier this week. “After sitting at the 309th Aircraft Maintenance and Regeneration Group in Arizona since 2008, the bomber was flown back to Barksdale AFB today. Getting it back in service took a team effort, including Reserve Citizen Airmen and active duty Airmen across several commands.”

When “Wise Guy” was retired in 2008 the crews left a message behind for the AMARG teams.

“AMARG, this is 60-034, a cold warrior that stood sentinel over America from the darkest days of the Cold War to the global fight against terror,” the message read in permanent marker. “Take good care of her….until we need her again.”

“Wise Guy” is the second B-52 to be returned to duty, with “Ghost Rider” being the first.

It took a lot of work to bring “Wise Guy” up to spec. 307th Maintenance Squadron Master Sergeant Greg Barnhill was in charge of figuring out how to fix the escape systems on the plane. “All of our parts for repairing the ejections seats were basically in a five-gallon bucket,” he said. “It was like putting together a jigsaw puzzle.”

On the fuels system side, Master Sergeant Steven Sorge also had to throw in quite a bit of elbow grease. “The jet had cracks in the rear landing gear and was missing two engines,” he said. “It also needed all its fuels cells and hoses replaced, as well as its tires.”

After countless hours, a legend has returned to the skies.

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