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Reservist helps B-52 come back to life

Tech. Sgt. Suann Becton, 507th Maintenance Squadron poses in front of B-52 aircraft number 61-007 which she helped bring back from the Boneyard in both civilian and Air Force Reserve status.  The B-52 dubbed the Ghost Rider flew from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona back to Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana after the maintenance team brought it back to life. (Courtesy Photo)

Tech. Sgt. Suann Becton, 507th Maintenance Squadron poses in front of B-52 aircraft number 61-007 which she helped bring back from the Boneyard in both civilian and Air Force Reserve status. The B-52 dubbed the Ghost Rider flew from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona back to Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana after the maintenance team brought it back to life. (Courtesy Photo)

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- For Tech. Sgt. Suann Becton, a getting-the-job-done attitude is something that comes with the territory.

So when the call came down to go to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona to help resurrect a B-52 Stratofortress that hasn't flown in seven years, she was ready to make it happen.

The Reservist, who is an aircraft fuels systems craftsman assigned to the 507th Maintenance Squadron, was on a team assembled to help bring the "Ghost Rider" back to flying status. Becton's task was to help repair fuel lines in an effort to get Aircraft 61-007 ready to fly to Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana for further repairs.

"I originally went out there for my civilian job, and they needed fuel systems specialists from the depot level to come out there and assist in changing all of the fuel hoses in the wings," said Tech. Sgt. Becton.

When the jet encountered a bout of fuel issues, Senior Master Sgt. Gavin Smith, the project lead from the 307th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron in Barksdale, requested the services of Becton for a second time, this time as a Reservist.

"It took us almost two weeks to get both of the wings taken care of," said Becton.

The attempt to bring the Ghost Rider back to life is the first attempt of its kind in bomber history.
Being part of this unprecedented feat is something that is not lost on Becton.

"It feels amazing. It was a once in a lifetime experience to be able to go out to the boneyard and see the condition the aircraft are in, and then see it as we were able to get it to a point to be able to actually fly home again," she said.

The aircraft, which has been at Davis-Monthan since 2008, will replace another bomber in Barksdale damaged by a fire during maintenance. When she saw the condition of the B-52 upon arrival in Arizona, Becton said there was no doubt the jet could be brought back to life.

"This one has been sitting out there not being flown for the last six or seven years," she said. "It didn't have all of the extra wear and tear we're seeing when they come to depot."

One of the aspects Becton remembers the most is the reaction of Air Force veteran Jerry Fugere, who was the Ghost Rider's first crew chief in the 1962. Fugere would marshal the jet into history when the aircraft was ready for the return flight to Barksdale.

"He was an amazing individual to be able to visit with," Becton said. "To see his expression when he got to marshal out the jet was awesome."
For Becton, the opportunity to go out and help restore a jet from the boneyard puts things in perspective.

"Just having the experience, and being able to work with the different groups of people, was interesting," Becton said. "We had active duty from Barksdale and Minot out there, and then we had to coordinate all of the time with the people at (Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group). So it was a very interesting time because of all of the people involved in making this happen."