I have fond memories of the first time I sat behind the controls of a B-52. It was a sunny day at RAF Fairford, which is an American base, and our squadron was in theory helping out at the airshow. In practice it was borderline rioting think the air cadet version of St Trinians. One of the taxi ways had been closed so that stalls and shops could be put in and another had been lined up with aircraft so that the public could get an up close look. I spent most of that day shuttling up and down these taxiways on a commandeered mobility scooter.

So about midway down there was a B-1B and a B-52 all cordoned off behind tape with their crews out talking to the public and basically doing public relations. I quite like USAF bods on the basis of that day because they basically took us under their wing, literally, and spoiled us a lot. Crates of US taxpayer funded Budweiser surreptitiously appeared under the pretext of, “You guys can drink when you’re eighteen and you must be nearly eighteen now”he was a captain, we were cadets, we didn’t feel it was our place to contradict him. I think at one point group of us were stuffing our faces in the airman’s mess, if not the officer’s mess and generally we were allowed to wander pretty much where we pleased. I seem to remember hershey bars and various other

This generosity also applied to the aircraft and they were quite happy to let us up into the cockpits provided we emptied our pockets first. Of course that was natural for us FOD was an obsession that we ourselves lived with so everything went in your beret and your beret stayed outside of their aircraft lest your bus fare home slip out of your pocket, jam itself in the control column and bring down the aircraft. The US taxpayer patience might stretch to beer and food but probably not to the cost of a frontline bomber.

So there we were in the cockpit of a B-52 and of course the question got asked, “Do you think it’s fueled?”. My mate, who was struggling to keep his tamagotchi alive at the time,  interesting FOD that would have made thinking about it, squinted into the radiant sunshine and announced that there was one way of finding out. For a precious few minutes we contemplated the possibilities of depriving the Americans of a bomber from an impromptu trip to the US to terrifying the French.

After that we sauntered off to the B-1B which is more to my liking. The B-52 is a brick whereas the B1-B by comparison handles more like a giant fighter and this is infinitely more my cup of tea.




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