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January 16 On this Day in Aviation History — B-52 Stratofortress’s Global Reach

January 16 On this Day in Aviation History — B-52 Stratofortress’s Global Reach

16 to 18 January 1957
In a demonstration of the B-52 Stratofortress’s global reach, B-52Bs 53-0394, -0397 and -0398 made a non-stop flight around the world during Operation POWER FLIGHT, which covered 21,145nm in 45 hours 19 minutes (537 mph) with four in-flight refuelings by KC-97s.

Led by M GEN Archie Old, Jr., Commander 15th AF, five B-52Bs assigned to the 93rd BW took off from Castle AFB, CA at 1300hrs local. As the mission proceeded, two of the bombers had mechanical problems. One returned to the US and the other landed in England. Old was aboard “Lucky Lady III”, 53-0394, commanded by LT COL James Morris, who had flown as co-pilot aboard B-50A “Lucky Lady II” when the world’s first global non-stop flight was completed by SAC in 1949.

After an A/R over Saudi Arabia, the planes followed the coast of India to Sri Lanka and then conducted a simulated bombing south of the Malay Peninsula before heading towards the next A/R tracks between the Philippines and Guam. The B-52Bs continued across the Pacific Ocean and landed at March AFB, CA on January 18 after flying for a total of 45.3 hours, with the lead plane landing at 1019hrs local and the other two planes following each other separated by 80 seconds.

The flight was completed in less than half the time required by Lucky Lady II when it made the first global non-stop flight in 1949. On the 18th, GEN Curtis LeMay was among the 1,000 on hand at March AFB to greet the three planes, and he awarded all 27 crew members the Distinguished Flying Cross. Though M GEN Old called the flight “a routine training mission,” the Air Force emphasized that the mission demonstrated its “capability to drop a hydrogen bomb anywhere in the world.” The National Aeronautic Association recognized the 93rd BW as recipient of the Mackay Trophy for 1957.

The 93rd BW was the first SAC unit to be equipped with the B-52, with the first aircraft arriving on 29 June 1955. Fifty B-52Bs were built by Boeing Seattle. “Lucky Lady III” was retired to the National Museum of the USAF, but sadly it was scrapped in 1984. 53-0398 went to MASDC at Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ in 1965, followed by 53-0397 in 1966.

Updated: January 16, 2018 — 12:53 PM

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