Today in History – June 17, 1986 – B-47 Stratojet gets one final flight.

“17 June 1986 – After being returned to flyable condition, B-47E-25-DT Stratojet serial number 52-166, made the very last flight of a B-47 when it was flown by Major General John D. (“J.D.”) Moore and Lieutenant Colonel Dale E. Wolfe, U.S. Air Force, from the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake in the high desert of Southern California, to Castle Air Force Base in California’s San Joaquin Valley, to be placed on static display.

52-166 had been built by the Douglas Aircraft Company at Air Force Plant No. 3, Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1952. 52-166 had not been flown in twenty years, having sat in the Mojave Desert serving as a radar target. General Moore and Colonel Wolf were experienced B-47 pilots, though they hadn’t flown one in the same twenty years. Because the B-47 it had not been through a complete overhaul prior to the ferry flight, it was decided to leave the landing gear extended to avoid any potential problems.

During the 43 minute trip, the aircraft had several systems fail, including airspeed sensors, intercom, and partial aileron control. On approach to Castle Air Force Base, a 16 foot (4.9 meters) approach parachute was deployed. This created enough aerodynamic drag to slow the airplane while the early turbojet engines were kept operating at high power settings. These engines took a long time to accelerate from idle, making a go-around a very tricky maneuver. Releasing the chute allowed the airplane to climb out as the engines were already operating at high r.p.m.

Douglas-built B-47E-25-DT Stratojet 52-166 enroute Castle Air Force Base with a Lockheed T-33A Shooting Star chase, 17 June 1986. California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains are in the distance. (U.S. Air Force)

Designed by Boeing, the Stratojet was a high-subsonic speed strategic bomber and reconnaissance aircraft, in service from 1951 until 1977. The B-47 could fly higher and faster than jet fighters of the time, and it was also highly maneuverable. B-47E (Boeing Model 450-157-35) was flown by a two pilots in a tandem cockpit. A navigator/bombardier was at a station in the nose.”


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