Air Power Investigates After B-52 ‘Crabbing’ at Airshow Seems to Knock Out Runway Lights

The Air Power is investigating an incident involving a B-52H Stratofortress that occurred at RAF Fairford, United Kingdom, through the Royal Worldwide Air Tattoo on July 16.

Video footage that circulated on social media seems to point out the B-52’s wheel-tip touchdown gear knocking out runway lights because it taxied at Fairford. The general public affairs workplace for the 307th Bomb Wing, to which the B-52 belongs, declined to supply extra particulars, citing the continuing probe.

“The incident is underneath investigation right now,” a spokesperson informed Air & Area Forces Journal. “Whereas the investigation is ongoing we will’t speculate as to what occurred.”

Nonetheless, many social media commenters have been intrigued by the best way the bomber appeared to maneuver practically sideways down the runway. The method is known as ‘crabbing’ and it helps B-52 crews negotiate slender taxiways. 

In contrast to many different planes, the B-52 has wingtip touchdown gear close to the ends of its 185-foot wingspan. These wheels hold the wings, which might flex down 10 or 12 toes relying on how a lot fuel is saved within the wing gas tanks, from dragging on the bottom. The wingtip touchdown gear is especially useful whereas taxiing and through takeoff, however it could actually create issues when the runway is just too slender for each wingtip wheels to set down.

“Different plane, their wings can hang around over the grass no drawback,” Dave Prakash, a former B-52 pilot, informed Air & Area Forces Journal. “However we’ve tip gear that want runway to the touch down on.”

To resolve this and different issues, the B-52’s touchdown gear was designed to rotate as much as 20 levels to the best or left, which helps the big jet land in a crosswind. The swivel wheels may also assist the jet transfer sideways down a slender runway. In these circumstances, B-52 crews may also transfer fuel from one wing to a different, in order that the loaded wing’s touchdown gear is on the bottom whereas the unloaded wing gear is hanging within the air.

“You’re altering the width of the plane while you make it tilt to 1 aspect and crab to 1 aspect,” Prakash mentioned. “Now you’ve decreased your crucial runway [width] by half, as a result of the one wing is now 10 toes within the air so it could actually hang around over the grass.”

Sadly within the video, the loaded wing’s touchdown gear seems to have nonetheless made contact with among the lights, which might occur every now and then, mentioned Prakash—who flew the B-52 at RIAT in 2009, although he didn’t recall having to crab there. Pilots sometimes know the runway dimensions upfront in order that they’ll plan accordingly, he mentioned. Usually, a crew member will get out and guides the plane down the runway to ensure there aren’t any collisions with the lights. 

Whereas crabbing is a giant assist for becoming down slender runways, additionally it is important for B-52s touchdown at airfields by crosswinds. Usually, when pilots of different plane are about to land on a runway with crosswind, Prakash defined, they fly into the wind till the final second, at which level they dip a wing down a bit and apply rudder in order that they’ll land with their wheels and nostril pointed straight down the runway. 

The B-52 can’t play that sport resulting from its massive and really versatile wingspan. Dipping these wings on the unsuitable second may scrape a wingtip or, at worst, trigger a catastrophic cartwheel, Prakash mentioned. So as an alternative of utilizing the rudder and a wing dip to straighten out on the final second, the B-52’s swivel wheels permit the pilot to maintain the plane crabbing into the wind whereas the gear itself factors straight down the runway.

“Within the B-52, you may be in such a crab angle that the pilot is looking one of many aspect home windows, as a result of the aspect window is what’s lined up with the course of the runway,” Prakash mentioned. “It makes it simpler to land as a result of now you don’t have to fret about finessing your rudder or something like that.”

As a substitute, B-52s can keep their crab place all the best way down the runway, then cease and reset the wheels to straight-ahead. After that, it’s only a matter of avoiding the runways lights.