Moving the B-52 Midnight Express


Bob Bogash

Bob Bogash      
B--52 Home Page   Home     Safety    Index    Reader Comments    Contact

Beginning Monday 19 March 2018, the Boeing B-52 2584 Midnight Express began her journey to her new home at the Museum of Flight's Seattle Campus.  The journey will comprise three phases - Disassembly, Transport, and Re-assembly.

The first phase, Disassembly, began with the arrival of the crew from Worldwide Aircraft Recovery from their home base in Omaha, Nebraska.  They had previously moved our Super G Constellation from Rome, New York to Seattle in September 2009.  Details here.

Vertical fin fairings were removed and the fin prepared for removal.    First it will be rotated around its right side fittings and laid down in a horizontal position.

The underside of the aft fuselage was accessed for removing the horizontal stabilizers. 

These access panels had not been opened in 27 years.

Landing gear doors were removed and loaded for transport.

Engine cowlings were removed - including nose cowls.

They had been completely overhauled by MOF Everett volunteers

Some of them were real "basket cases" and had to be completely re-built and re-skinned

The external tanks were removed and loaded for movement to Boeing Field (BFI.)

Fuel tank access doors were removed and tanks were entered for the first time in many years.

The Old Girl is the center of attention .....  again

My trusty RV-12 taxi for my many MOF jobs.

Next up - removing the engines and pylons

Man, this bird has a lot of engines!

Pylon removal

Marty Batura - Head guy at Worldwide

Loading up for movement to Boeing Field

Wings after pylon removal

Beginning work on the wing-body attachment

Arrival of first load at staging area of Museum of Flight

   John Purvis photo

Removal of the Vertical Fin

The vertical fin is designed to be hinged and lay over on its right side

The Nbr 5 787 parked adjacent is scheduled for scrapping.

The airplane is turned 90 degrees and moved south

Nose pointed north

Tail with fin removed

Vertical fin on trailer for transport to Boeing Field

Just a couple of big bolts hold that massive fin to the fuselage

Ready to hit the road for Boeing Field

Next is the Horizontal Stabilizer

This is a tough one!

It's bigger than the wing on a lot of airplanes.

The structure beneath has to be removed.

It has to be disconnected from its hinge points and jackscrew.

These support beams hold the tail together

Their attachment pins have to be removed with care

While the tail needs to be supported by a jack

Then drop the stab straight down - all in one piece....then it will be placed on this trailer

These vortex generators have become a Boeing trademark

They were developed on the B-47

An honored visitor with his toy - Jim Farmer
B-52 pilot and MOF Trustee

His toy can't fly - I don't think

You can see without these big support posts,
there's not much holding the aft part of the tail up.

Lower end of stab jackscrew

The stab center box area after stab removal

Stab pivot points

Here's the big Man himself - Marty.

God is my Co-pilot -- well, in this case, my wife Dot!

My little airplane is a camera hog!!!

At the end of the day, this B-52 is being saved (again).

The 787 is going away.  Being a composite airplane - not even beer can heaven...
Plastic grocery bags???

Next up - Removing the wing.

Tuesday May 1, 2018
After an aborted try last week - today was the day!

Cranes arrive right on sked at 0800

Uh! Oh!  Around 1100, we shut down for a while - seems some nice person (known but not identified by me here and now) decided to phone in a safety complaint to the State - a little "safety audit".....

With that one hour "fun" out of the way - we're getting close to the big lift

The wing is held on with four huge pins...
.... and getting them out after decades ain't easy!

With pins finally removed - the lift begins

A happy Tom Cathcart

She's off!

With the wing hoisted off the fuselage, the body is pulled out from underneath - with a pickup truck!
(Yes, it's a Ford...)

It's being steered from both ends

That wing weighs 48,000 lbs

Then it is lowered onto prefabricated stands

The wing will now be divided into two pieces
One will remain attached to the center wing section

A good chance to see structure rarely seen
Four of these big pins hold the wing to the body
Not much different than my RV-12 airplane - which only uses two.

MOF's Austin Ballard - awed like the rest of us.

The main crane was HUMONGOUS

Without the wings - the airplane actually looks BIGGER!

Now the fuselage will be raised, the landing gear inner cylinders, wheels and axles removed,
 and then dropped using the the outer cylinders onto
 special, steerable, over-the-road dollies for transport to Boeing Field

The hardware after my departure from Paine Field

The 787 that was adjacent to the left - by the trailer - has almost completely

Next - splitting the wings, prep'ing the fuselage, and moving the stab.

Fuselage Move

After completion of the 787 scrapping, Boeing gave permission to move the fuselage onto their leased Kilo 6 taxiway property


Then, work began on splitting the wings into two sections for road transport

The Right Wing will remain attached to the Center Wing Section

The Left Wing will be removed as a separate piece

There was still some jet fuel left in the tanks - after 27 years

These are some of the big structural splice plates


These are the wing attach pin fittings
Left photo - right side - to be left installed
Right photo - left side after pin fitting removal

The wings are split

Marty Batura with his split wings

Left wing

Splice chords

Some of the splice fittings had to be cut - new ones will be fabricated

The structure on this machine is impressive

A lot of fasteners to be removed - many are tapered fit, close tolerance.

Inside the Center Wing Tank

Recall that this airplane was built 58 years ago, and sat outside for 27 years.
A lot of the stuff (but not all) - looks pristine.

The right wing will be left with Center Wing Box attached.

Tom Cathcart photo
Yours truly

Prep'ing the Fuselage for the Move

OK, the challenge now is to get the fuselage down the freeway to Boeing Field.

Because of height restrictions, it will have to be dropped to the lowest possible clearance from the ground.

No!  It can't just be towed down the road on its landing gear!  Not if we want the top to arrive with the bottom.  Too high!!!

So, the wheels will have to be removed.  Here's the wrinkle (the wrinkles are not just on the fuselage.)

For some reason, Boeing removed the fuselage jack pads from the fuselage on the "G" models.
The "F" models DO have jack pads.

"Normally", i.e. with the wings on etc, the airplane is jacked using wing jack points, a tail jack pad, AND axle jack pads on each landing gear.

Our problem is, we can't jack using axle jack pads because we want to pull the axles!

So - we considered manufacturing jack pads using locations on some of the biggest frames.

Eventually, we came on a scheme (me and Marty each claim credit, with each going to blame the other if it didn't work...)

We would pick up on the wing/body bottle pin attach points by manufacturing I-beams that would be oriented spanwise (athwartship is the proper term) and extend beyond the body.

  We would then pick up on the ends of the I-beams with jacks and raise the fuselage using those points and the tail jack.

Several serious concerns had to be addressed - namely breaking the fuselage at the wing and tail locations.

Normally, the body integrity is maintained by the major structural elements comprising the wing center box and the horizontal stabilizer center section.  With those removed, the body might want to bend around the open spaces.

  For the tail, the diagonal support beams were supplemented by steel fore-aft beams located at the bottom.  And then a transverse (athwartship) beam was fabricated for a jack pad.

In the case of the wing center box, this presented two problems.
The first occurred when the wing was raised off the fuselage.
Here, the body might want to buckle around the missing wing center box with the nose and tail bending downwards around the opening.  To resolve this problem, belly cradles were installed to support the body until chains were installed across the opening to keep the nose and tail upper sections attached together.

The chains were installed immediately

Now - for the move - pushing up fore and aft from the landing gear bulkhead locations, the body might want to buckle around the hole with the front and back sections moving upwards.

 To prevent this, steel I-beams were fabricated and  attached where the wing center section normally attached to the upper body.  The combination of the chains and the I-beams provided the structural strength of the missing wing center section.

[As an FYI, this is the same problem I (we) am facing moving two L-1649 Constellations in Maine this summer - one to Germany and one to JFK Airport in NYC.  That airplane has no center wing section - instead, it has two wings with a Butt Line Zero splice join.  In those cases, we will probably fabricate an artificial steel center wing box to keep the fuselage from buckling around the opening.]

Worldwide's Team includes skilled metal workers and a lot steel fab and welding is being performed on-site.



Omega Morgan is a major sub-contractor for steel fabrication and craning.

In many ways, this move looks a lot like a bridge fab job with a lot of very heavy duty steel work in evidence everywhere.  A real indication of the size and complexity of the B-52, and of the skills and expertise of Worldwide.


With the transverse I-beams in place, the fuselage is jacked.

Wing - 2 jacks                                  Tail jack

Then, the landing gear is unlocked and pivoted to allow removal of the inner cylinders, with their axles and wheels.

Then the landing gear outer cylinders are returned to the Down and Locked position.

First the body is lowered so the landing gear outer cylinders are supported by wood cribbing.

Then, specially fabricated transverse steel support beams are positioned under the cylinders.

With the oleos resting on the transport beams, the "wing" jacks are removed.

Next, giant fore-aft I-beams are located to pick up those support beams from above.

Some ideas about the size of this hunk of steel

That's a big hunk o'steel


Finally, over-the-road wheel dollies will pick up those giant support beams for the trip down the freeway.  There will be steering from the rear, like the Boeing wing trucks from Auburn or a Hook and Ladder fire engine.

Marty Batura

He's the brains and the brawn behind this operation with an incredible work ethic.
Did you know he used to be an Alaska commercial fisherman?
And.... a few other careers thrown in on the side.

I've been deeply involved in moving about 25 big airplanes - but this one takes the cake!
This is a BIG job for a BIG airplane!

The moves are planned for two nites - Friday and Saturday, with the fuselage arriving at Boeing Field Sunday morning.  The "Route of Flight" will be across Paine Field, south on Airport Way, down Mukilteo Speedway, down I-405 to I-5, up I-5 to Airport Way, north on East Marginal Way and then into the Raisbeck Aviation High School parking lot, where it will be reassembled before movement into the Memorial Park location.

Everyone is invited!  Here are the Details from MOF.

B-52 Welcome Ceremony: June 3rd

Mark your calendar and get ready to "welcome home" the Museum's B-52G Stratofortress #2584 as it's delivered from Paine Field in Everett to The Museum of Flight on Sunday, June 3rd at 8:00am.

The B-52 fuselage - the largest and final piece of the aircraft - will depart Paine Field in the early hours of the morning on Sunday, June 3rd. The truck will travel south on 405 to I-5, then towards the Museum on East Marginal Way South. You are invited to come watch the massive fuselage roll into the Raisbeck Aviation High School parking lot, where the plane will be reassembled.
Join us Sunday morning at the Museum's Aviation Pavilion for the celebration of a lifetime! You'll have an opportunity to hear from members of the Project Welcome Home committee, learn about the campaign to build a new Vietnam Veterans Memorial Park, and honor Vietnam veterans with a special pinning ceremony to thank them for their service.
The Museum will open early at 9:00 AM after the welcome party, and Sunday admission will be free for veterans and active military members.

East Marginal Way will be closed from approximately 7:45 – 8:45am, or until the airplane is completely off of the road. Anyone arriving after the road is closed WILL NOT BE ALLOWED THROUGH and will have to park and walk in from either the north or south. There are no exceptions to this, including ADA needs. Please plan accordingly.

NEXT - Move to Boeing Field - click Here.

Help us help her on her Journey - click here

Copyright 2018 Robert Bogash.  All Rights Reserved.
Some pictures by Marty Batura - Used with Permission
Return to Home Page