A few weeks ago, just before I was starting my afternoon American history class, some students came running in, out of breath. A big, dark-colored plane -- belching smoke -- had just flown over campus. Really low, they said. Surely it was about to crash.
Thinking they were a bit over-excited, I quizzed them.
"Did it have props?" I asked, thinking it was a C-130 from the naval air station up the road. They frequently fly over.
"We don't know!"
I asked if any of the digital natives had taken a pic on their ubiquitous smart-phones.
"Nooooo." They were dismayed I even asked.
But one did produce a pic, heavily pixelated once I blew it up. And there it was -- a B-52 flying off, its eight Pratt & Whitneys pumping out a normal amount of exhaust, flying at a normal height and certainly not about to crash.
I was chagrined. I've never seen one in flight, just static on the ground. I gave the kids a quick discourse on the venerable workhorse of the U.S. Air Force.
Mostly, they didn't care.
I thought about my near miss with the BUFF (you can look that up) today when I learned the U.S. had sent two of them on a mission through the disputed airspace above the Senkaku Islands north of Taiwan. Both China and Japan claim the islands, and this weekend China declared the zone off-limits.
Siding with Japan, the U.S. voiced its opposition to China's mandate with the Stratofortress. For more, check out my post here. After nearly 60 years in service, the B-52 is still on the front-line of U.S. foreign policy.
B-52 Photo Courtesy U.S. Department Of Defense