Attrition: A Rare Buff Accident

Archives

February 17, 2009: Last July, a U.S. B-52 bomber crashed off Guam. The subsequent investigation revealed that the cause was mechanical failure. The item that failed was the horizontal stabilizers (the flaps on the small wing type structures in the tail). The horizontal stabilizers control pitch (which direction, up or down, the nose of the aircraft is pointing). The B-52 was descending when the horizontal stabilizers failed, and this happened at a low altitude (about 8,000 feet). It was the low altitude that caused the aircraft to be lost. The crew became aware of the problem quickly enough, but they didn't have enough time (altitude) to correct the downward pitch of the aircraft. Because they were descending, they were moving pretty fast. The air force is still searching the ocean bottom for more parts to determine exactly how the horizontal stabilizers failed, and determine what can be done to other aircraft to prevent a similar accident.

Despite losses like this, the B-52 has the lowest accident rate of (less than 1.5 per 100,000 flying hours) of all American heavy bombers. The B-1s rate is 3.48. Compared to the supersonic B-1 and high-tech B-2, the B-52 is a flying truck. Thus the B-52, despite its age, was the cheapest, safest and most reliable way to deliver smart bombs.

With a max takeoff weight of 240-250 tons, the BUFF (Big Ugly Fat Fellow) is basically a large aircraft designed to carry bombs. Lacking the supersonic speed of the B-1, or the stealth and automation of the B-2, the B-52 can carry up to 150 tons of fuel, and normally carries 12-20 tons of bombs (max load of 35 tons). What made the B-52 so useful in Afghanistan and Iraq was its ability to stay in the air for so long. Since it can refuel in the air, the B-52 can fly anywhere in the world with a load of bombs or missiles.

 

 


Article Archive

Attrition: Current 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 


X

ad
0
20

Help Keep Us Soaring

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling. We need your help in reversing that trend. We would like to add 20 new subscribers this month.

Each month we count on your subscriptions or contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage. A contribution is not a donation that you can deduct at tax time, but a form of crowdfunding. We store none of your information when you contribute..
Subscribe   Contribute   Close