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B-52 Stratofortress at Wings Over Wairarapa

The New Zealand Airshow Debut of the B-52

The Wings over Wairarapa Air Festival organisers have announced that they have put plans in motion to bring a United States Air Force Boeing B-52 Stratofortress to this month’s event. This flypast on Saturday 27th February will be the B-52s New Zealand debut.

Boeing B-52 Stratofortress  Photo Supplied

In addition to having an extravaganza of aerial action lined up over three days from February 26th – 28th, the air festival is set to showcase high-end readiness, which is a key line of effort for all of the military commands involved, including the Royal New Zealand Air Force, and the U.S. Pacific Air Forces and Air Force Global Strike Command.

“We are working very hard to bring the B-52 to this month’s Wings Over Wairarapa air festival,” says Wings Over Wairarapa Board Chair Bob Francis. “I would like to say thank you to the United States Embassy for their incredible support in helping us make this dream a reality.

“We acknowledge we are operating in a very dynamic environment with the Covid-19 global pandemic and its effects potentially coming into play however, we are hopeful that having the B-52 make a rare appearance in our skies will provide an additional ‘wow’ factor to an already amazing line-up of aircraft we have planned.”

The Boeing B-52 Stratofortress is an American long-range, subsonic, jet-powered strategic bomber, designed and built by Boeing. It has been operated by the United States Air Force (USAF) since the 1950s. The bomber can carry up to 32,000kg of weapons and has a typical combat range of more than 14,080km without aerial re-fuelling.

The B-52 will perform a fly past Hood Aerodrome in Masterton on Saturday 27th February in the early afternoon. Because of its weight, it is unable to land at the Hood Aerodrome runway and no weapons will be carried on this flight as it enters New Zealand airspace.

The B-52’s scheduled participation remains subject to change in the event there are unforeseen weather conditions, operational requirements or unavoidable circumstances.

Organisers of this year’s air festival acknowledge the complexities of running such a large-scale event with the Covid-19 global pandemic. They are ensuring all Covid-19 social distancing, contact tracing and hygiene protocols are catered for at Alert Level 1 and that planning has occurred for any change in Alert Levels.

Wings Over Wairarapa general manager Jenny Gasson says being one of the first air shows in the world to get back off the ground [since Covid-19], she is expecting a large, varied crowd of people from aviation to non-aviation backgrounds.

“In addition to the spectacular flying programme there will be fantastic ground displays, as well as activities for small and big kids alike such as the STEM Aviation and Education programme designed to inspire youngsters to learn about potential aviation careers.”

About The Stratofortress

Beginning with the successful contract bid in June 1946, the B-52 design evolved from a straight wing aircraft powered by six turboprop engines to the final prototype YB-52 with eight turbojet engines and swept wings. The aircraft made its maiden flight in April 1952. Built to carry weapons for Cold War-era deterrence missions, the B-52 Stratofortress replaced the Convair B-36. The bomber is capable of carrying up to 32,000kg of weapons. A veteran of several wars, most notably Vietnam, the B-52 has dropped only conventional munitions in combat.

The B-52 has been in active service with the USAF since 1955. As of December 2015, 58 were in active service with 18 in reserve. The bombers flew under the Strategic Air Command (SAC) until it was disestablished in 1992 and its aircraft absorbed into the Air Combat Command (ACC). In 2010 all B-52s were transferred from the ACC to the newly created Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC).

Note that the B-52’s scheduled participation at this year's show still remains subject to change in the event should there be unforeseen weather conditions, operational requirements or other unavoidable circumstances.

Superior performance at high subsonic speeds and relatively low operating costs have kept the B-52 in service despite the advent of later, more advanced aircraft, including the cancelled Mach 3 B-70 Valkyrie, the variable-geometry B-1 Lancer, and the stealth B-2 Spirit.

The B-52 completed 60 years of continuous service with its original operator in 2015. After being upgraded between 2013 and 2015, it is expected to serve into the 2050s, an extraordinary 100 years of operational service.

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