Heritage Park loses its B-52D

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Michael Washburn
  • 355th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
The B-52D Stratofortress, tail number 56-659's time of proudly being displayed alongside its aerial comrades at Heritage Park is coming to a close.

At the intersection of Arizola St. and Craycroft Rd. is one of D-M's landmarks, Heritage Park. The park was built in the 1980's to provide the base with some recreational areas, as well as increasing its aesthetic appeal. Scattered throughout Heritage Park are static displays of various aircraft, as well as a history of each, D-M and the Air Force have used through the years to establish its air superiority.

The B-52 has a special connection to Heritage Park's landscape architect and University of Arizona graduate, Bill Bushman. Mr. Bushman's father, William Bushman, was the pilot of the plane and has his name painted on the front door.

The B-52 was designed by Boeing Aircrafts as a long-range, high-altitude, intercontinental bomber. The plane spans 185 feet, has a top speed of 650 mph and needs a five-man team to operate.

B-52 56-659 has a long and varied history. It was delivered to the Air Force on July 5, 1957. It has been stationed at many stateside locations including Texas, Florida, California and Mississippi, as well as deployed to overseas locations such as Guam and Thailand. In May of 1982, the plane was sent to the Military Aircraft Storage and Disposition Center at D-M. In October of 1989, the plane was transferred out of active duty and into museum status.

"The plane is being removed from Heritage Park for a few reasons," said Chief Master Sgt. Kelly Downey, 355th Component Maintenance Squadron superintendent. "Fiscal constraints, personnel qualification and equipment availability, future construction projects, as well as the manpower burden on an already stretched thin maintenance group all played a part."

According to Chief Downey, there are also problems with encroachment on construction plans. Some of the local wildlife may have also made their way into the plane, so it could turn into an entomology issue. But mainly, it's not safe and with all the budget cuts, it costs too much to fix.

"Arriving at the decision to dispose of the B-52 was not easy and many factors were considered," Chief Downey said. "However, the most important factors were the safety of the aircraft visitors and not letting this symbol of our military's strength decay away without dignity."

The disposal of the plane was a last option. It had been offered to other Air Force organizations, Department of Defense organizations and museums.

Although no one has decided to take the entire plane, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio and Fairchild AFB, Wash. has expressed interest in acquiring parts of the B-52. This acquisition of parts ensures that other B-52s live on to continue their missions, Chief Downey said.

The removal of the B-52 has been slated for October or November, but nothing has been set in stone, Chief Downey said. Even though the plane is to be removed, the stories passed down from generation to generation by the service members who flew the Stratofortress will ensure the legacy of this beloved plane is never forgotten.