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B-52H Homebuilt to Receive Special Award

Air Force Reserve crew members of the B-52H on display on Boeing Plaza pose with the EAA homebuilt judges as the Stratofortress was “judged” as a homebuilt plane on Tuesday.

By Barbara A. Schmitz

  • B-52
  • B-52
    Bubba Francis, Eric Hansen and Dave Jucken judge the B-52 as an entry in Vintage competition. Eric Hansen flew that same B-52 when in the Air Force.

July 22, 2015At more than 159-feet long and 40-feet high, it has to be the largest “homebuilt” on display at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh.

The B-52H Stratofortress on Boeing Plaza is getting second looks from people with its signs noting that the “Classic Homebuilt” plane has been flown for more than 14,000 hours in more than 50 years and that it is to be judged in the homebuilt competition.

And it’s been getting a few questions from people, too, about if it is really a homebuilt, says Lt. Ed Rowe of the 343rd Bomb Squadron.

(No, it isn’t.)

Mike Dooley, homebuilt co-chairman, said the whole thing started as a joke.

“The crew came to us and asked for a prop card,” he said. “So the boss decided to register it in the database as a homebuilt… and honor the experimental nature of the first B-52.”

The homebuilt judges looked at the plane on Tuesday morning, posing for photos with the Air Force Reserve crew. Chief Judge Bob Reese said the plane would be receiving a special award from them on Saturday.

“This is a special airplane, and we felt they deserved something special,” he said. “It’s been in continuous service for more than 40 years and served well in Vietnam and other war efforts. Plus, it’s still going.”

Rowe said the plane actually has 19,000 flying hours on it, but they couldn’t find a sign printed with more than 4,000 hours. So someone simply added a “1” before the “4” to make it close, at 14,000 hours.

Homebuilt judge Eric Hansen may be biased in his evaluation of the plane since both he and his father actually flew it while in the military. In fact, father and son also flew the plane with a Chicago Sun-Times reporter in 1979, who took photos and wrote a story was about the need to replace the B-52 because of its age.

“But this thing is good for another 20 or 30 years,” Hansen says. “It really is a great plane.”

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