Photos of the Week: Big Boy’s Birthday

B-52 bomber celebrates milestone, but is nowhere near done

By BlueSkyStaff

Published April 18, 2022

Read Time: 2 mins


We’re celebrating a birthday this week.

Seventy years ago, on April 15, 1952, perhaps the greatest combat bomber in the history of the United States took a 40-minute trip from Boeing Field over Seattle to nearby Larson Air Force Base, its maiden flight.

The B-52 Stratofortress has been in service ever since, and the military expects the B-52H, the latest and last model of the aircraft, to serve for decades more.

Various upgrades over the years have altered the aircraft from its original design, but many elements still remain. The 92-ton bomber’s swept wings are 185 feet wide, and the eight turbofan engines can each provide up to 17,000 pounds of thrust.

Fully loaded with fuel and up to 35 tons of bombs and missiles, a B-52 can weigh 244 tons at liftoff and fly 8,800 miles without refueling. Ryan McManus sent us this photo of one cruising through a beautiful blue sky.

More than 70 B-52s still in service are operated by the U.S. Air Force and are stationed across the country at various bases. They require a crew of five; after the Gulf War, gunner positions were eliminated from the aircraft.

The Air Force is currently conducting a Long Range Strike Bomber program to develop the aircraft that will ultimately replace the B-52. Still, the B-52 is actively involved in combat service, including in Syria in 2018.

So happy birthday, big guy. As a present, we got you this gorgeous sunset shot from right here in Pittsburgh, submitted by Kaelyn Brazelton.

Thanks, Ryan and Kaelyn!

Our readers continue to pass along shots of unique aircraft, international airports, historical events, gorgeous views and even family vacation photos for this feature. We love them! Keep them coming—you can click here for submission guidelines.

An early morning winter sunrise at Pittsburgh International Airport. (Photo submitted by Kaelyn Brazelton)

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