The organisers of the Wings over Wairarapa Air Festival have announced that a Boeing B-52 Stratofortress will make its NZ debut next week.
According to Wings Chair Bob Francis, the flypast is a very rare chance to see a military aircraft of this size and significance in NZ.
“If you want power, noise, the ground shaking type of experience, then the B-52 will give that to you in spades,” Francis said.
“We’ve had excellent support from the US Embassy over several months, enabling us to get the B-52 to our Air Festival.
“They’ll travel over 8,000 miles from Guam to be with us.”
“When we got this request from the local organisers, the Embassy was happy to do all that we could to facilitate,” US Ambassador to NZ Scott Brown said. “The plane’s participation means the crew is flying a considerable distance out of their way, but it has been our pleasure to contribute and build on the airshow’s past successes.”
The B-52 will fly past Hood Aerodrome on the afternoon of 23 February. It is unable to land on the runway due to its weight.
The strategic bomber has been operated by the USAF since the 1950s. The plane has a typical combat range of more than 14,080 kilometres without aerial re-fuelling, and is capable of carrying up to 32,000 kg of weapons.
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, and has been in active service with the USAF since 1955.
In 2010, all B-52s were transferred from the Air Combat Command to the newly created Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC). As of December 2015, 58 remain in active service with 18 in reserve.
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.
Following upgrades between 2013 and 2015, it is expected to serve into the 2050s - an extraordinary 100 years of operational service.
Immediately after the flypast in NZ the B-52 will head off to the Avalon Air Show.