News | Sept. 27, 2016

‘Ghost Rider’ in the sky: B-52H departs Tinker in historic flight

By John Parker 72nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

The first B-52H Stratofortress to be resurrected from the nation’s aircraft reservoir to rejoin the active bomber fleet soared off Tuesday from Tinker Air Force Base.

The historic flight of tail number 61-0007, known as “Ghost Rider” on its nose art, marked the end of the warbird’s 19-month transformation from a mothballed 55-year-old, eight-engine jet parked in the Arizona desert to a fully updated conventional- and nuclear-capable bomber with global reach.

Tinker AFB’s 76th Aircraft Maintenance Group handed over the plane 90 days ahead of schedule to Air Force Global Strike Command. “Ghost Rider” will join the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot AFB, N.D.

“I am extremely proud of the team that was able to deliver Ghost Rider back to Air Force Global Strike Command,” said Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex Commander Brig. Gen. Mark Johnson. “This is really a testament to accomplishing the Art of the Possible. It shows that when there is a common goal, team members from across multiple organizations can rally behind the objective and deliver their team's full impact to the project. Everyone involved -- 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group, aircrew, engineers, Defense Logistics Agency and Air Force supply chain professionals, and of course, mechanics, schedulers, planners, from across the OC-ALC -- all brought their best to return combat capability back to the warfighter. The ALC should be proud, Tinker AFB should be proud and Oklahoma should be proud of this historic aviation accomplishment.”

Tinker’s 565th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron completed the overhaul, modernization and restoration work in 272 calendar, or flow, days.

Charles “Chuck” Alley, 565th AMXS director, said maintainers, engineers and support staff were excited to work on the historic project, spending approximately 45,000 man-hours restoring “Ghost Rider” to fighting shape.

Mr. Alley said pilots of Tinker’s 10th Flight Test Squadron flew the B-52 six times to discover equipment and systems that still needed fixing before declaring the plane ready for delivery Sept. 13. The jet needed an extra 7,000 man hours over normal programmed depot maintenance to “get it up to speed with all the other B-52s in the fleet,” Mr. Alley said.

“I told people during test flight that because the aircraft had sat in the desert so long, we’re knocking all the ghosts out of it,” the director said. “It seemed like every time it came back it had two or three different things wrong with it.”

“Ghost Rider” had been kept in long-term storage status since November 2008 at the National Level Reservoir of Air and Space Capability, the world’s largest airplane storage facility, run by the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group near Tucson, Ariz.

Lt. Col. Darrel Hines, B-52 flight commander with the 10th FTS, flew the plane from Arizona to Barksdale AFB, La., in February 2015 and flew in part of the six final functional test flights. The plane arrived at Tinker on Dec. 14, 2015.

The flight commander praised all the organizations involved in the restoration, including the 309th AMARG, the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex, Air Force Life Cycle Management and the maintainers whose skilled hands-on work made the difference.

“This was a great team effort from multiple commands and it was a great success,” the lieutenant colonel said. “Now this plane is going to come out of Tinker back to the warfighter, and it’s going to be a huge asset to the guys going out in combat.”

Brenden Shaw, production management chief for Tinker’s B-52 Systems Program Office, helped oversee “Ghost Rider’s” revival from the beginning. He watched it receive new fuel, oil and some other minor additions when the engines were initially restarted at AMARG.

Mr. Shaw described the project as a huge undertaking into “uncharted territories” for organizations including Air Force Global Strike Command, Program Depot Maintenance, the Defense Logistics Agency and the Air Staff.

Mr. Shaw thanked all the team members who had a “part in making this historic event happen ahead of schedule. It is truly impressive what we can accomplish when we all pull in the same direction.”

“Ghost Rider” will join 75 other Stratofortresses in the active fleet.

Overhaul and maintenance work at Tinker began Dec. 31, 2015. The plane was due to be delivered later this year on Dec. 23.

Editor's note: The original story can be viewed on the Tinker Air Force Base website.