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A B-52 flight instructor reaches a milestone of 10,000 hours

by Till Daisd
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On March 2, 2017, Lt. Col. Steven R. Smith, a flying instructor with the 93rd Bomb Squadron, surpassed the 10,000-hour milestone in the B-52 Stratofortress

At Barksdale Air Force Base (AFB), a remarkable record has been achieved. Lt. Col. Steven R. Smith, a flying instructor with the 93rd Bomb Squadron (BS), surpassed the 10,000-hour threshold in the B-52 Stratofortress on March 2, 2017.

The ironic part is that, according to Tech. Sgt. Theodore Daigle of the 307th Bomb Wing in his piece A 10,000 Hour Love Affair, Smith’s initial feelings upon learning of his deployment to the B-52 were resentment and wrath.

“I was in the top 10 percent of my class in navigator school and the B-52 was not even on my wish list, so I was really upset,” said Smith. “I remember my advisor trying to tell me I was going to love it, but I didn’t believe him.”

Smith’s feelings for the machine have significantly changed thirty years later, in addition to the fact that he has logged more flight hours in the aircraft than any other pilot now serving in the Air Force.

“It does not mean I’m smarter or better than anyone else here, there are lots of people in this unit smarter than I am,” he said. “It just means I love the B-52. It has been the center point of my whole career.”

But Smith never intended to fly in the BUFF for so many hours (Big Ugly Fat Fucker, as the B-52, is dubbed by its aircrews). In fact, there were speculations going around the bomber community when he reported to his initial duty station that his time flying would be limited.

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Steve Smith, 93rd Bomb Squadron flight instructor, fields questions from the media at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., March 3, 2017. Smith just returned from a training mission where he surpassed 10,000 flight hours in the B-52 Stratofortress. During his career, Smith helped train more than 1800 B-52 aircrew members. He was also instrumental in developing a targeting pod for the jet that improved weapon accuracy.

“There was talk about a new bomber coming into the inventory soon, so I thought I would just stick it out until they replaced it,” he said. But, since the change never happened, Smith’s affection for the B-52 grew with each passing year.

“I was on active duty for seven years so I flew quite a bit and it was something I just found myself enjoying,” he said.

Smith joined the Air Force Reserve and was assigned to the 93rd BS after he left active duty. Smith attended as many mission briefings as he could because the unit had a combat mission and a fast operational pace.

“I figured each time I went to a briefing, there would be a 25 percent chance I’d get on the jet,” he said. “Turns out, I got on almost every time.”

“He is the B-52 warrior of warriors”, said Col. James Morriss, III, 307th Bomb Wing vice-commander. “When he is part of the flight crew, you know there is nothing to worry about on that mission.”

Smith’s appointment as the 93rd BS instructor when the squadron turned into a flight training unit did not come as a surprise for this reason.

“His training and mentorship are directly responsible for preparing two generations of B-52 pilots,” pointed out Morriss. “People all around the world owe their capabilities to him.”

Morriss’ opinion was shared by Col. Rob Burgess, commander of the 307th Operations Group.

“His experience and credibility are priceless for the students,” he said. “At 2000 hours, a pilot really has their respect, but at 10,000 hours you are a B-52 legend.”

Smith said he never intended to be an instructor, but is grateful for the duty.
“It has been extremely rewarding, watching the students learn the jet and it has been a great privilege to see them perform so well in combat,” he explained.

His accomplishments go beyond the schoolhouse, though. He has taken to the air in numerous combat missions, some of which he completed while still working as an instructor. He also contributed to the development of the targeting pod, which improves target precision.

Smith stated that maintaining his current pace is becoming increasingly challenging, but he still intends to try.

“I’ve got another two years to go and I’ll probably ask for an extension,” he said. “I’d like to fly another 1,000 hours.”

The 96th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron (EBS) and the 96th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Unit (EAMU) launched their 201st sortie on January 5, 2017, breaking the previous record for the highest B-52H Stratofortress “sortie streak” during a flight supporting Operation Inherent Resolve. It should be noted that this is not the first record set by the B-52 community this year (OIR).

When you consider that the first U.S. Air Force (USAF) B-52H was introduced to the Strategic Air Command (SAC) fleet in May 1961, this accomplishment is quite remarkable.

Photo by Senior Airman Curt Beach, Airman 1st Class Stuart Bright, Tech. Sgt. Ted Daigle / U.S. Air Force

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