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Phase inspections keep the B-52 flying

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Airman 1st Class Kolin Pulliam, 2nd Maintenance Squadron Airman, checks a B-52 Stratofortress panel for any deformities at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., March 4, 2019. A phase inspection of the B-52 lasts 14 duty days. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stuart Bright)

By Senior Airman Stuart Bright, 2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs

BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, March 11, 2019 — Just like a car, the B-52 Stratofortress needs its oil changed, tires rotated and its engine looked at to keep it running and prevent future damage.

However, unlike cars, B-52s require an entire team to perform inspections like Phase and conduct routine maintenance. 

“Phase is a huge operation that involves nearly 20 Air Force Specialty Codes around the Maintenance Group alone, not counting our supporting agencies like the Logistics Readiness Squadron and Aircrew Flight Equipment from the Operational Support Squadron,” said Master Sgt. Jason Edwards, 2nd Maintenance Squadron aircraft inspection chief.

While this requires a lot of moving parts, Edwards says the inspection is vital to maintaining the life-cycle of the aircraft.

“These in-depth inspections gage the health of the aircraft and helps identify potential problems we may not see during normal pre-flight inspections,” said Edwards.

Every month, a new B-52 enters the phase hangar for its inspection. In a span of 14 duty days, the jet is taken apart, inspected and then put back together. 

“We pull a bunch of panels and components out and do a more in-depth and intrusive inspection than what we would do on the flight line,” Edwards said. “We look for things like cracks and loose skin. This helps maintain the life cycle of the B-52 with this more in depth inspection.”

After two weeks of around the clock work, the aircraft leaves as good as new.

“When our jet is done and it has had it’s inspections and it is ready to roll out of our hangar, we know that it is safe and we can send it out anywhere in the world without worrying about it breaking or having major problems,” said Senior Airman Todd Johnson, 2nd MXS phase inspection journeyman. “The point is to have the jet clean and like a new jet by the time it leaves us.” 

The B-52 has flown for more than 60 years providing combat support for several operations including Vietnam and the Gulf War, and with the maintenance it consistently gets, it will continue to provide support another 30 years. 

“It’s a great feeling leading the people that are maintaining the aircraft now,” Edwards said. “The B-52 is very near and dear to my heart, and I am looking forward to seeing how this carries out to 2050.”