Episode #268 "Magic Hand"

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Episode #268 "Magic Hand"

Postby jackhodgson » Fri Jan 20, 2012 4:14 pm

Email from Cliff D., a retired B-52 pilot, who tells us some fascinating details on the B-52 takeoffs that we talked about in this ep. Reposted with permission.

Cliff D.
Jan 16


Just listened to the "Magic Hand" episode and heard you discussing the B-52 MITO video from Minot. The poster of that video on YouTube was an Electronic Warfare Officer (EWO) I used to fly with when assigned to 96BS at Barksdale AFB, LA. At the time of the video he was the Operational Support Squadron (OSS) Commander at Minot.

The purpose of a Minimum Interval Takeoff is to saturate the runway to get the fleet off the ground before the ICBMs impact the base. This video shows a 60 second MITO, which is the standard in the post-Cold War environment. Back in my 1LT days in the last days of SAC, the standard was the 12-second MITO, which was very sporty. We flew G-models then (straight Turbojets) which smoked more than the H-models (TF-33 Turbofans) in the video. I remember a night MITO as #3 where the smoke and dark made it so that the only thing we saw was the center stripe go by periodically and the edge lights. The procedure for an abort was to call out "Abort" and your airspeed three times. Everybody would look down and check their airspeed…less than the callout--abort….more than callout, continue. Quick reaction was paramount as on alert the jet was loaded to about 4500 lbs over gross to burn down during the roll to reach liftoff at max takeoff weight of 488,000 lbs.

We sat Alert with daily worst case Takeoff Data computed by the lead copilot for 8, 7, and 6 engine takeoff. My last alert tour, we had an engine fail to start during the weekly Klaxon…we were expected to delay until the end of the stream and then launch if there was reasonable chance of breaking ground by the overrun at the departure end. Such was the prospect of nuclear combat.

The "dip" you saw was not waggle of the wings. When a stream of bombers and tankers executes a MITO takeoff, especially in the 12 second days, wake turbulence was a huge concern. The procedure is to takeoff and after safely airborne, turn to a MITO fan heading in 5 degree increments. If there were 5 bombers and 3 tankers, the lead would takeoff and as soon as the gear handle came up turn to a heading 35 degrees away from the crosswind side of runway heading, #2 would turn 30 degrees, and so on until the last tanker stayed on runway heading. Typically this heading is held until 10 miles or so from base (whatever the base MITO plan dictated) and then on assigned routing all the way to the target. My first crew nearly died a couple of months before I joined them when a training MITO was screwed up. Lead did not turn, #2 turned upwind, and my crew hit both a/c wake. There was a video of this (It occurred on "Spouse Day" as a demonstration) that was shown for a decade at the B-52 school house showing the #3 jet literally become a ballistic object for about 3 seconds and then fly away on a 9 hour mission.

We (or I should say they as I retired a year ago) still practice 60 second interval takeoffs in the B-2 and I assume the also do in the BUFF (I'll have to check with my buds still in that community). And yes, the B-52 is still a Big Ugly Fat F@&ker but she was my first assignment and a really miss flying low level (down to 200' at Red Flag). And they are old (the G's were '57-'59, the H's in the video are '60-'61 models--I was born in '66).

Keep up the good work on the podcast, you guys and Tupper keep me entertained on the commute to work,

retired BUFF & B-2 driver

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Re: Episode #268 "Magic Hand"

Postby keithrenz » Wed Jan 25, 2012 12:51 pm

Another former B-52 pilot here. Flew G models at Grand Forks AFB, ND, '83-'86 and Griffis AFB, NY, '86-'89. In those days, 12 sec MITOs were the norm. We also did mixed MITOs where the timing was 12 secs behind another B-52 and 30 secs behind a KC-135. A few fun facts... The B-52's wingtips flexed approx. 12 feet in flight. Due to the angle the wings were bolted onto the fuselage, the airplane didn't rotate on takeoff like most airplanes. If you did nothing, the rear wheels would lift off before the front wheels, so you had to hold back pressure on the yoke to keep the airplane from wheelbarrowing down the runway. The speed at which the airplane lifted off the ground was called "unstick". If done properly, both front and rear trucks would lift off simultaneously. The G model engines were Pratt & Whitney J-57, water injected, which is why they were sometimes so incredibly noisy during takeoff. For crosswind takeoff and landings, you rotated the trucks left or right giving the appearance that the airplane was rolling down the runway crooked -- it was. No wing low, opposite rudder crosswind landings. The wingspan is 185 feet with tip gear. You always landed with wings level. Wake turbulence in a MITO was a significant issue. I've seen 45 degree rolls left and right shortly after takeoff. (I've got a scary video of a MITO at Grand Forks where this occurred.) Great airplane!

Love your podcasts!

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