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B-52 Sets Unofficial Record on Edwards-to-Alaska Trip

August 26, 1995|JOHN JOHNSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE — A slate-gray B-52 bomber roared over the Mojave Desert Friday night and dumped thousands of pounds of dummy bombs en route to setting an unofficial speed record for some of the world's heaviest aircraft.

"It was great," shouted Capt. Russell Mathers as the members of his crew popped champagne corks and sprayed the bubbly at each other on the Tarmac after landing.

Although the flight's planners originally plotted a route to Greenland and back, high winds on that path rerouted the massive Stratofortress, fully loaded with 19 dummy 500-pound bombs, up to Alaska and back.

The 6,200-mile round trip took 11 hours, 23 minutes, without refueling, at an average speed of 556 m.p.h.

That set a record for a flight of 10,000 kilometers (6,200 miles) carrying a 5,000-kilogram (11,000 pound) payload in a plane weighing between 440,000 and 550,000 pounds. It was not difficult to break the old record in that class--there wasn't any.

"As far as I'm concerned, it is a record," said Ray Lutz, an observer for the Federation Aeronautique Internationale in Paris, the world sanctioning body for aviation records, who was on the flight. But it won't be official for six to eight weeks, he said, adding that the crew appeared to have observed all FAI rules.

The B-52 is part of the 2nd Bomb Wing based at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana. Edwards was chosen as the site of the beginning and end of the flight because its bombing range is located near the runway.

Lt. Col. Dale Kleinertz congratulated the crew upon their arrival. "It's another historic event for the B-52," he said. "We are proud of you. You are great."

Last year, another B-52 from Barksdale became the first jet to fly around the world without stopping. The B-52, one of the largest bombers ever built, has been the workhorse of the Air Force bomber fleet since the mid-1950s, with 94 still in service. It has eight Pratt & Whitney jet engines and a wingspan of 185 feet.

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