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Gunning the BUFF! February 13, 2010

Posted by skywalking1 in History.

Tom Jones, combat-ready copilot, 1980

I was a copilot trainee on a B-52 sortie, scheduled for an “Oh-Dark-Thirty” takeoff
time from Carswell AFB in Ft. Worth, TX.
Our B-52D, painted sinister black and camouflage in its post-Vietnam War paint
scheme, crouched on the ramp like an aging Komodo Dragon. The maintenance troops
had filled it up overnight with 240,000 pounds of JP-4, the Air Force’s grade of refined
kerosene jet fuel.
About 30 minutes before takeoff time, I worked with our understudy aircraft
commander trainee (who had about 3 years as a copilot under his belt) to crank up our
eight J-57 turbojets. First we ran up number 4, using high pressure air blown in from a
ground start-cart. Then we used the hot bleed air from #4’s compressor to rev up the
remaining seven engines.  Soon we had all eight jets singing their bell-like notes at steady
My aircraft commander was soon ready to run up the throttles to taxi clear of our
parking spot. One problem: the crew chief and his men yanking free the four thick 4-by-4
inch yellow chocks from our landing gear couldn’t get one of the forward chocks free of
the tires. Seems the refueling with more than a hundred tons of JP-4 overnight had
pinched one chock under the squatting tires. Our crew chief struggled for 20 minutes
with his sidekicks, trying to knock the chock free with blows from one of the other hunks
of yellow lumber. We could hear him huffing with exertion over the intercom. No luck!
Looked like we’d have to shut down and get ourselves backed off the chock by a tug (our
jets had no thrust reversers and so our B-52 could only go forward!).
Finally my pilot had had enough: “Stand clear of that lumber! We’ve got eight
locomotives at our fingertips here, and no damn chock is going to make us miss our
takeoff time!” He grabbed all eight throttles and ran up the power. The engines rumbled
and rocked our wings and fuselage. Couldn’t hear a thing except the roar as a hundred-
thousand pounds of thrust put it to that poor chock. The yellow wood splintered and
exploded as our four-foot tires rolled up and over the now-demolished obstacle! Yeah –
horsepower! It’s the sure solution to many problems.
I’ve looked over the years for another chance to use that line: “Out of the way! I’ve
got eight locomotives at my fingertips!”  …but I figured people would think I was bragging.
Still, it’s nice to think that I did once.

I flew this B-52D, now known as Diamond Lil, during the early 1980s while stationed at Carswell AFB, Tx. Now she's at the USAF Academy in Colorado Springs, CO. U.S. Air Force Photo/Mike Kaplan



1. Dave Waldrup - March 8, 2010

Nice write-up, Tom. Good thing the (241psi?) tires were up to the challenge, eh? I remember flying Diamond Lil with you a few times along with the BUFF on dislplay at the Orlando Airport. Sometimes on a hot summer day at Carswell on a heavyweight takeoff we could have wished those “8 locomotives” were a bit more powerful…

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