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B-52 debut, take two

The US Air Force’s B-52 Stratofortress is set to make an appearance at Wings Over Wairarapa this month. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

The much-anticipated B-52 bomber was a no-show in 2019’s Wings Over Wairarapa festival, but determination from organisers mean the aircraft will almost certainly make its Masterton debut this month.

Organisers of Wings over Wairarapa Air Festival 2021 on Friday confirmed plans were in motion to bring the US Air Force’s B-52 Stratofortress to this month’s event.

In 2019, the B-52 that was set to make an appearance in Wairarapa was grounded in Australia. It was originally going to fly over Masterton on its way to Australia but left Guam early to avoid Cyclone Oma.

At the time, there was speculation that the aircraft was damaged when it hit a landing light in Australia.

“We are working very hard to bring the B-52 to this month’s Wings Over Wairarapa air festival,” Wings Over Wairarapa board chairman Bob Francis said.

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 US Air Force 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 refuelling.

The B-52 will fly past Hood Aerodrome in Masterton on Saturday, February 27, 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 acknowledged 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 said being one of the first air shows in the world to get back off the ground since covid-19, she was expecting a large, varied crowd of people from aviation to non-aviation backgrounds.

This year’s three-day air festival gets under way on Friday, February 26, and features more than 70 aircraft including vintage, military, New Zealand Defence Force, jets, helicopters, aerobatic displays and skydiving.

  • To learn more about the show visit www.wings.org.nz

B-52 Stratofortress technical specifications

Crew: Five [pilot, co-pilot, weapon systems officer, navigator, electronic warfare officer]

Wingspan: 56.4 m

Length: 48.5m

Speed: 1046 kmh

Engines: Eight Pratt & Whitney TF33-P-3/103 turbofans

Service ceiling: 15,151.5 m

Combat range: [unrefuelled] 14,080km


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