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Flight Plans Newsletter

The Boeing B-52 Stratofortress--A Story of Design Longevity

Date: 
02/21/2009

Pioneer B-52 engineer and test pilots detail the plane's early years

SEATTLE, Feb. 12, 2009

Panel Presentation: Saturday, Feb. 21, 2 p.m.

Boeing B-52 bombers have served the U.S. Air Force so long that today's new crew members were probably born long after their plane rolled off of the assembly line. The big Stratofortresses first flew in 1952. A panel of three B-52 pioneers will be at The Museum of Flight to share their early experiences of this enduring airplane. Speakers include former Chief of B-52 Flight Test, Dick Taylor; B-52 engineering test pilot Brien Wygle; and Air Force test pilot Brig. Gen. Guy Townsend (USAF Ret.). Townsend was a pilot on the aircraft's first flight. The Boeing Company Historian Michael Lombardi will moderate the panel. The presentation will be illustrated with many photographs. The program is in the William M. AllenTheater and free with Museum Membership or admission to the Museum.

Brien S. Wygle is a leader in Northwest aviation with decades of experience as a pilot, engineer and aircraft project manager for The Boeing Company. Until his retirement, Wygle had flown and participated in the development of every Boeing military and commercial jet airplane. He was the chief pilot on the first flight of the Boeing 737 and co-pilot on the first flight of the Boeing 747-40 years ago this month. Wygle retired as a Boeing vice president. 
 
Dick Taylor was a flight test engineer on the B-52's predecessor, the B-47. He helped in the development of the B-52 and subsequent Boeing commercial aircraft until his retirement. As a pilot he holds nine world speed records. Taylor retired as a Boeing vice president, and remains a consultant to The Boeing Company. Brig. Gen. Guy Townsend was the first military pilot to fly the B-52-and the B-47, B-50 and the KC-135 prototype. During World War II he was a combat pilot in B-17s and B-29s. Until his retirement in 1970, Townsend logged thousands of hours as a test pilot. His management positions included being director of flight test at the Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards Air Force Base in California.
The longevity of the B-52 is remarkable. The Boeing XB-52 was first flown on April 15, 1952. The B-52 became operational with the US Air Force in 1954. A total of 744 of the aircraft were built, with the last one delivered to the Air Force in 1962. The B-52's inherent strength and versatility have allowed it to be the back bone of the United States bomber force for over 50 years.