The first Boeing B-52 entered the scene in 1952 and will remain in U.S. Air Force service through 2040. This incredible long-range, subsonic strategic bomber has played a vital role during the long years of the Cold War, Vietnam War, Desert Storm, Afghanistan, and continues to serve as air support in the Middle East. It has changed over the past 60+ years to adapt to ever changing world events and adversaries but still maintains its original mission of delivering weapons to target every time. Read about MotoArt’s Lucky Lady III, a record setting B-52, and get one of your own: Lucky Lady III B-52 PlaneTags .
Originally designed as the XB-52 in 1946, it was intended to be a straight wing, six engine, propeller heavy bomber. In 1948, it was re-envisioned as an all jet bomber and a new eight engine jet bomber was designed. The U.S. Air Force designated it as the next intercontinental bomber in 1951, replacing the Convair B-36 Peacemake r, and ordered an initial production run of 13 B-52s. After assembling three B-52As, they began producing B-52Bs and additional variants, each increasing in power, range, and capabilities. Between 1952 and 1962, 744 B-52s were produced.
During these years, the Stratofortress broke speed and distance records, including a speed record for going around the globe. In January 1962, one flew 12,500 miles non stop from Japan to Spain in a trip that broke 11 distance and speed records, all without refueling.
Today, there are almost 60 still in active service. In spite of more advanced strategic bombers that were later introduced, with the excellent performance at subsonic speeds, low operating costs, and upgrades to the airframe, electronics, and advanced communications system (CONECT), they are expected to serve into the 2040s and perhaps beyond.
CONECT - Combat Network Communications Technology - provides a digital infrastructure which enables the aircrew to receive intelligence and threat data from multiple sources in real time.
Over the years, the U.S. Air Force has touted the ability to swiftly fly anywhere on the globe and the readiness to act when and wherever they are needed, symbolized in the form of three Lucky Lady planes. Lucky Lady I, a Boeing B-29 Superfortress, along with two other B-29s, set off from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base on a mission to fly around the world in fourteen days. She and Gas Gobbler made it back fifteen days later, having flown more than 20,000 miles with just eight stops along the way. The third B-29 was lost in a crash in the Arabian Sea. Lucky Lady II, a B-50A Superfortress (46-0010), and her fourteen man crew, completed the first nonstop flight around the world on March 2, 1949. She flew 23,452 miles in 94 hours, 1 minute and was refueled mid-air by four pairs of KB-29M tankers. Both of these flights demonstrated the Air Force’s commitment to rapid flight and the global power within its reach. Lucky Lady II later suffered an accident but the fuselage was preserved and is now on display at Planes of Fame Museum in Chino, California.
Lucky Lady III, a B-52B Stratofortress (53-394) commanded by Lt. Col. James H. Morris, the co-pilot aboard the Lucky Lady II flight, set out to break the previous records. She, along with four additional aircraft, departed Castle Air Force Base in Merced, California (now closed) on January 16, 1957. She and her accompanying planes completed the trip around the globe on January 18, 1957, in less than half the time it took Lucky Lady II. The crew was personally presented with the Distinguished Flying Cross by General Curtis E. LeMay, the commander of Strategic Air Command himself, calling the flight a "demonstration of SAC's capabilities to strike any target on the face of the earth." Indeed, the flight was proof that the SAC could quickly drop a nuclear bomb anywhere in the world.
This Warner Bros film was released in November 1957, following the celebrated flight of Lucky Lady III. It was filmed at Castle and March Air Force Bases, with cooperation from the U.S. Air Force, and featured the introduction of the B-52 Stratofortress into the US Strategic Air Command. Read more about the film here .
Two B-52Bs from the 95th Bomber Wing, headquartered at Biggs Air Force Base (now Biggs Army Airfield) in El Paso, Texas, were dubbed “City of El Paso”. Our plane, 53-394, was the second one.
Biggs was the location of the 810th Air Division, comprising the 95th Bombardment Wing, 97th Bombardment Wing and the 810th Air Base Group. It was activated in June 1952 and remained active until 1966, when Biggs AFB was closed. Its shuttering was due to “serious problems” with the location - it was close to El Paso suburbs and the El Paso International Airport, as well as surrounded by mountainous areas. Other reasons cited by Assistant Secretary of Defense Paul Ignatius when testifying before Congress in 1966 were its proximity to weapons testing north of the then AFB and heavy traffic in civil airways which created serious safety and traffic control issues. The 95th Bombardment Wing had operated B-36 Peacemakers and B-52 Stratofortresses. On 25 June 1966 the 95th Bombardment Wing was moved to Goose Air Base, Newfoundland.
53-394 served for many years before being scrapped in 1984. Portions of it, such as the cockpit and parts of the fuselage, were acquired by Walter Soplata and moved to his airplane sanctuary, as he called it, where they remained until 2019.
The MotoArt team, led by owner Dave Hall, visited the famed Soplata estate outside of Newberry, Ohio twice last year. Among the aging warbird hulks, the former Lucky Lady III stood out.
“Knowing just a little of this plane’s history - where she had been and how she came to land at the Soplata farm - I just couldn't leave it to languish,” states Hall. “We wanted to make sure that this important piece of history would live on.”
It was transported to MotoArt Studios in Torrance, California in 2019.
MotoArt is thrilled to offer Soplata Collection Limited Edition B-52 Lucky Lady III PlaneTags. They come in two variants: the Ohio Patina and Military Greens. The handcrafted PlaneTags are numbered to 5,500. The packaging features B-52 artwork and the story behind this amazing B-52. Add one to your collection, or give as a gift to your favorite pilot, veteran or avgeek.
See our other B-52 PlaneTags .
MotoArt’s love for the B-52 did not begin with Lucky Lady III. In 2002, Hall and the team were able to source original B-52 parts, which had been grandfathered in despite heavy Homeland Security regulations. Because the B-52 remains an instrument of national security, getting these parts again is impossible. Of the original 100 engine spinners, for example, only 25 pieces remain. Once they are gone, the design will be discontinued.
Check out these exceptional pieces of aviation furniture, created from original B-52 parts.
B-52 Stator Table - *NEW for 2020*
B-52 Burner Can Table - *Coming Soon*
In case you missed these:
The Handley Page Victor: A V-Bomber That Delivered
Douglas DC-7: Piston Powered From Coast to Coast
Convair B-36: An Intercontinental Bomber That Kept The Peace
The Soplata Collection: Preserving Planes for over 70 years