A B-52 on final approach to Barksdale Air Force Base in December was struck by a bolt of lightning that tore a man-sized gash in the tail.
Control systems for the huge bomber were not affected and the crew landed without incident, the 307th Bomb Wing said.
It happened on Dec. 19 as the crew was returning to Barksdale from a training mission. A story posted on Barksdale's web site said the crew heard something that sounded like a thud outside the jet, but did not know what happened until they after they landed and got out of the B-52.
The B-52 has a lightning arrester designed to mitigate damage from lightning strikes, but the strike that damaged the tail was too strong for the jet’s safeguards, the bomb wing said.
“We see a handful of strikes every year, but out of all the maintainers we have, no one had seen lightning damage that bad,” Lt. Col. George P. Cole III, commander of the 307th Maintenance Squadron, said. “That includes personnel that have been with the unit for more than 20 years.”
The entire tail of the jet was replaced on Feb. 1 and the B-52 is back in service. It took about 10 hours of work time to replace the tail, the bomb wing said.
Master Sgt. Eric Allison, 307th MXS B-52 aircraft mechanic, was the only maintainer on the eight-person team with experience replacing a tail.
“It’s challenging because you have to position the tail just right -- and it is a 2,000-pound piece of metal,” Allison said.
B-52s are no longer being manufactured but a tail was available from another jet that is no longer in service, the Air Force said.