The Cult of Cars, Racing and Everything That Moves You.
We may earn a commission from links on this page

This Video Shows That You Don't Fly A B-52 You Wrestle It Around The Sky

We may earn a commission from links on this page.

The B-52H Stratofortress is a quarter of a million pound aluminum Cold War era pterodactyl, and its durability is as legendary as its striking power. To call the big jet's flight control system precise would be a blatant lie and pilots have told me that muscling the jet around at low-level is the most exciting upper-body workout around, as you can see in the video above.


Because of the of the B-52s massive side surface area and low-slung wing, crosswind landings are especially challenging. With this issue in mind, Boeing engineers built the B-52's two main tandem landing gear with an genius feature—they swivel. This feature was kept secret for years after the Stratofortreses introduction into service.

The pilot simply dials in the runway's heading via a rotary dial in the cockpit and the gear will remain properly aligned with a selected compass heading throughout the jet's approach. This way the pilot can fly the approach crabbed into the wind, with its wings level, all the way down to touchdown and rollout. This capability is especially relevant as the B-52's wingtips and 'outrigger' landing gear are far from the fuselage's centerline and hang nearly as low as the jet's lower fuselage edge. Just a couple degrees of roll to the left or to the right could result in a wing dipping multiple feet. As a result, using ailerons to sideslip or even de-crab the jet before touchdown could end in a wing-strike catastrophe. Thus B-52 pilots fly intensely crabbed crosswind approaches, sometimes looking out the cockpit's side windows at the runway, all the way through touchdown and rollout.

Because of the B-52's unique landing gear, the jet can even taxi sideways!:

Tyler Rogoway is a defense journalist and photographer who maintains the website Foxtrot Alpha for You can reach Tyler with story ideas or direct comments regarding this or any other defense topic via the email address