A B52 Stratofortress was able to successfully land despite the tail being damaged beyond repair by a lightning bolt.
Mechanics at Barksdale air force base in Louisiana have had to completely replace the tail of a B52 Stratofortress after the aircraft was struck by lightning during a flight on 19 December, website The Aviationist reported, citing a US Air Force release. The strike was so strong that the lightning safeguards the B-52 was equipped with didn’t help.
Nevertheless, the jet could land safely, although it turned out the plane’s tail had a hole in it the size of a person.
According to the US Air forces, the involved squadron sees a handful of strikes every year, but out of all the maintenance workers they have, none had seen lightning damage that bad.
The damage was so unusual that the aircraft mechanics had some difficulties with reactivating the B52, as they have to replace the component completely. According to the maintenance team, cited by The Aviationist, “It’s challenging because you have to position the tail just right and it is a two-thousand-pound piece of metal”.
Apart from the lack of experience with such damages among the repair team, finding a replacement component was a hard task. But army gumption suggested using a tail from a retired jet instead of ordering a new one from the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group, which could have taken months. The B52 became available for operations in a couple of weeks, instead.
A B52 Stratofortress is a strategic bomber which has been with the US forces since the 1950s. These jets, able to carry 32,000 kilograms of ordnance, have struck terror into US enemies in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. The era of the B-52s is slated to end by 2045; they will be replaced by B-21 Raiders.