B52 Bomber mission

Aug 1, 2016

I flew a 9 hour training mission on B52 Bomber (https://www.wired.com/2016/04/gods-green-earth-b-52-still-service/) in July of 1976 from Fairchild Air Force Base ( http://www.fairchild.af.mil/ ) in Spokane Washington. I was a system engineer at Singer-Link, which was designing a flight simulator for B52 (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/06/us/b-52s-us-air-force-bombers.html?_r=0) at the time. The flight was a part of our introduction to the plane. B52 was already in service for 24 years at the time. It is still flying with USAF.

B52 was a part of the nuclear triad that included nuclear submarines and ICBMs that US had as a nuclear deterrent. It was designed to be a high altitude, long range bomber and with aerial refueling could stay airborne for very long times. It is powered by 8 jet engines and is massive in size and carries a very large payload. During the Vietnam war, which had just ended, it would fly from Guam for bombing runs over Vietnam. It carries two set of crews; one doing the actual flying and the other resting. Plane had three stations: pilot and co-pilot, a down stairs station for the radar and fire control and a third station in the back for a gunner. Gunner station is not accessible to the pilot during the flight.

It does not have any creature comforts at all. I rode in the radar station and was seated on what essentially was a wooden stool for the whole mission. It was freezing cold as it was the lowest point in the plane. AC intake was next to my feet and it blew very cold air up my legs. Incidentally, men’s urinal tube was next to my left year.

We flew all over western United States. We went south to Nevada Firing range and made several practice bombing runs. We were refueled in the air. After 9 hours of very uncomfortable flying we returned back to the base. Since plane had been refueled, it still had plenty of fuel. Pilot decided to do ‘touch and go’ runs. Pilots have to do a certain number of landings and take offs to stay current on the plane. After several of these, I finally had to pull my plastic bag as I could not handle it any more. This flight is probably one of the most uncomfortable thing I have done in my life.

During my Singer-Link days I had ‘secret’ security clearance and was a part of teams that designed many Air Force and Navy simulators, including E2C, F4 Phantom, F111, C130, EA6B and Tornado. I flew on several different planes during those years.

I finally left Link in 1979 after 9 years. I was itching to get in to commercial world. Silicon Valley was already a hot bed of entrepreneurship and I felt stifled working for a defense contractor which was totally decoupled from its surroundings. I had become a master of hardware design but I was not sure I would fit in the commercial world. We already had microprocessors (8080 and Z80) by then. I had no experience with them as we were only allowed to used mil-standard parts which were always a few years behind.

It took me no time to find my footing in the commercial world. By the end of 1981 I was itching to try my luck in the start-up world. I along with two friends launched Excelan as networking pioneer in the spring of 1982.