‘Ghost Rider’ in the sky: B-52 departs Tinker in historic flight

“Ghost Rider,” takes to the skies for a functional test flight Aug. 30, 2016, at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla. The B-52H Stratofortress is shown in natural metal since it has been overhauled and must be checked for full functionality before being painted. 61-0007 is the first B-52H to ever be regenerated from long-term storage with the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., and returned to fully-operational flying status. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kelly White)

A B-52H Stratofortress, this one nicknamed “Ghost Rider,” takes to the skies for a functional test flight Aug. 30, 2016, at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla. The B-52H is shown in natural metal since it has been overhauled and must be checked for full functionality before being painted. Ghost Rider is the first B-52H to ever be regenerated from long-term storage with the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., and returned to fully operational flying status. (U.S. Air Force photo/Kelly White)

“Ghost Rider” spent three days in paint before getting its signature nose art and returning to the active fleet. 'Ghost Rider' is the first B-52H to ever be regenerated from long-term storage with the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., and returned to fully-operational flying status. (Air Force photo by Kelly White)

A B-52H Stratofortress spent three days in paint before getting its signature nose art, with the nickname “Ghost Rider,” and returning to the active fleet at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla. Ghost Rider is the first B-52H to ever be regenerated from long-term storage with the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., and returned to fully operational flying status. (U.S. Air Force photo/Kelly White)

Chris Carson and Martin Harpster, both aircraft mechanics with the 565th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, work on throttle cable pullies on the right wing of “Ghost Rider.” (Air Force photo by Kelly White/Released)

Chris Carson and Martin Harpster, both aircraft mechanics with the 565th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, work on throttle cable pullies on the right wing of a B-52H Stratofortress at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla. This particular aircraft nicknamed “Ghost Rider” was the first B-52H to ever be regenerated from long-term storage with the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., and returned to fully operational flying status. (U.S. Air Force photo/Kelly White)

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. (AFNS) -- The first B-52H Stratofortress to be resurrected from long-term storage at the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) to rejoin the active strategic bomber fleet soared into the sky from Tinker Air Force Base Sept. 27.

The historic flight, which the aircraft is nicknamed “Ghost Rider,” marked the end of the warbird’s 19-month transformation from a mothballed, 55-year-old, eight-engine jet parked in the Arizona desert to a fully updated conventional- and nuclear-capable global strike bomber platform.

Tinker’s 76th Aircraft Maintenance Group handed over the plane 90 days ahead of schedule to Air Force Global Strike Command. Ghost Rider will join the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot AFB, North Dakota.

“I am extremely proud of the team that was able to deliver Ghost Rider back to Air Force Global Strike Command,” said Brig. Gen. Mark Johnson, the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex commander. “This is really a testament to accomplishing the art of the possible. It shows that when there is a common goal, team members from across multiple organizations can rally behind the objective and deliver their team's full impact to the project.”

Tinker’s 565th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron completed the overhaul, modernization and restoration work in 272 calendar days.

Charles Alley, the 565th AMXS director, said maintainers, engineers and support teams were excited to work on the historic project, spending approximately 45,000 man-hours restoring Ghost Rider to fighting shape.

Alley said pilots of Tinker’s 10th Flight Test Squadron flew the B-52 six times to verify system functionality and ensure a safe and reliable aircraft before declaring the plane ready for delivery Sept. 13.

The jet needed an extra 7,000 hours over normal programmed depot maintenance to “get it up to speed with all the other B-52s in the fleet,” Alley said.

“I told people during test flight that because the aircraft sat in the desert so long, we’re knocking all the ghosts out of it,” he said. “It seemed like every time it came back it had two or three different things wrong with it.”

Lt. Col. Darrel Hines, a B-52 flight commander with the 10th FTS, flew the plane from Arizona to Barksdale AFB, Louisiana, in February 2015, and flew in part of the six final functional test flights. The plane arrived at Tinker AFB on Dec. 14, 2015, with overhaul and maintenance work beginning Dec. 31, 2015. The plane was due to be delivered later this year on Dec. 23 but was delivered 90 days early.

Hines praised all the organizations involved in the restoration, including the 309th AMARG, the OC-ALC, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, and above all the maintainers whose skilled hands-on work made the difference.

“This was a great team effort from multiple commands and it was a great success,” Hines said. “Now this plane is going to come out of Tinker back to the warfighter, and it’s going to be a huge asset to the guys going out in combat.”

Ghost Rider will join 75 other B-52Hs in the Air Force’s operational bomber fleet.