U.S. Air Force
It’s been over a half a century since B-52 Stratofortresses first took to the sky, and they’re still flying. Sure, they went through upgrades but they are still the primary bomber of the U.S. They’re big, they’re durable, and they pack a 70,000 lbs. payload punch.
Fun Fact: Without aerial refueling, its combat range is more than 8,800 miles.
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Let’s talk about the “durable” part however. Like its predecessor, our beloved B-17 Flying Fortress, these planes can bring their crews back home even if they’re not in perfect shape. A testament to that happened on January 10th, 1964.
While performing a test flight over New Mexico, civilian test pilot Chuck Fisher was tasked with rattling the crap out of this new airframe.
Rattle it he did.
While yawing violently, Chuck managed to rip off his own vertical stabilizer. He wasn’t aware of that of course. All he knew was that his controls were limited and he only found out about the damage when another pilot pulled up next to him.
An ejection was considered briefly, but the crew decided to set her down with the minimal controls they had. The video below will explain in detail how they did it and what conditions they were facing.
The whole thing is about 9 minutes long so we queued it up to the part where they tore off their tail. If you have the time though, listen to the whole thing. It’s a pretty epic moment in aviation history.