Out of the Boneyard, Into the Fight: Ghost Rider Flies Again
By Airman 1st Class J.T. Armstrong, Public Affairs
/ Published September 29, 2016
MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- He said it was something he never thought he’d see again. The B-52H Stratofortress screamed across the blue North Dakota sky above Minot Air Force Base before coming in to land.
“I saw it at the boneyard and figured that’s the end of that era,” said Robert Crane, 5th Logistics Readiness Squadron vehicle management flight chief. “She’s never going to fly again.”
Crane stood at the alternate parking area as a B-52, tail number 1007, taxied towards him.
But this wasn’t just any B-52.
The nose of freshly painted aircraft rolled past Crane and Staff Sgt. Dylan Wall, 5th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron dedicated crew chief, and came to a stop. Crane, the primary crew chief on the aircraft from 1991-1994, also gave 1007 its legendary name – Ghost Rider.
“Having that tail number and nose art coming by me – it was a big moment for me,” said Crane. “I was pretty darn choked-up”
It was a reunion that he wouldn’t soon forget. According to Crane, back in the early 90’s when he named 1007 Ghost Rider, he did so for a worthy reason.
“I came up with the name Ghost Rider, because it flew code-1. I figured it had to be a spirit or ghost on board watching over,” said Crane. “Code-1 means zero discrepancies or write-ups.”
He recalled many times being out on the flightline as the discrepancies of other aircraft were being called in. Then 1007’s turn would come. Sure enough, code-1.
“I felt a great sense of pride, being on the flight line with the crew chiefs, it brought me back to 22 years ago – and to have my old plane taxiing in,” said Crane. “That was four years of pride and joy coming back.”
Ghost Rider’s reunion wasn’t only with crew, but with Minot Air Force Base as well. In 2008, the aircraft was sent to the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) aka the Boneyard at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona. This site is the world’s largest aircraft boneyard, where the climate preserves parts to be removed and used on other aircraft.
After more than seven years in the boneyard, Ghost Rider, the first B-52 to be restored, has spent the last year at Tinker AFB, Oklahoma and Barksdale AFB, Louisiana, undergoing equipment transfers of usable equipment, inspections and corrective maintenance actions to ensure its airworthiness.
“Obviously flying in a plane that has not flown for such a long time would normally be a bit of an unnerving experience,” said Col. Doug Warnock, 5th Operations Group commander. “However, knowing that Ghost Rider was thoroughly evaluated on the ground, both at Barksdale and Tinker, and had completed several test flights at Tinker by the U.S. Air Force Reserve B-52 aircrew, removed any doubt.”
Warnock’s flight from Tinker, returning 1007 to Minot AFB, was not his first flight in Ghost Rider.
In 2002, then Capt. Warnock, a recent graduate of the U.S. Weapons School, was deployed to Diego Garcia with the 20th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron during Operation Enduring Freedom. Ghost Rider was there as well, fighting terrorism in Afghanistan.
After returning to Minot, Warnock said the entire crew remarked how clean and smooth of a ride home Ghost Rider had given them.
“Having flown Ghost Rider during OEF and then again today, I am excited to have her back in the fleet and ready to meet future combatant command taskings,” said Warnock. “Its true evidence of the numerous maintenance hours and actions that so many had given so that the B-52 named Ghost Rider could fly again and return to Minot.”
After a long journey, Ghost Rider arrived home to Minot AFB on Sept. 27, 2016. It was no surprise to Crane, hearing an all too familiar phrase, this time from Ghost Rider’s new crew, “1007, code-1”.
The Ghost Rider rides again.