Short Final: The Big One


This happened a few years ago, in the pre‑pandemic world. I was chugging along in my Piper Dakota from North Central Arkansas heading toward the busy Dallas‑Fort Worth airspace on a Friday afternoon. Fort Worth Center was talking fast, directing the arriving airline traffic, dealing with a few military training flights and a couple of us little guys on flight following.

Center: “Cherokee 28U, military traffic, 1 o’clock, 10 miles, 10,000, eastbound.”

I looked and didn’t spot anything, so I asked center to say traffic again—just as a B52 emerged from behind my sun visor.

Center (in a very exasperated voice): “The Big Black One.”

Me (meekly): “Traffic in sight.”

Indeed, it was a big airplane.

James Babcock

Gassville, AR

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  1. Several years ago, my brother (a CFII) had set me up on an ADF approach to KDVK. As I was approaching the airport almost perpendicular to the runway, he told me to take off the hood “since I had just broken out”, wanting to see how quickly I could pick up the runway from that angle . About that time, the radio crackled with “Cessna NXXXX, you have eastbound traffic, a B-52, he’s below you, at about 5 miles.”
    We never saw him, but trust me, we were looking!

  2. In 1980, I was working the London, Kentucky sector in ZID. There was a B-52 in the so-called Oil Burner route, practicing bomb runs at fairly low level. As the BUFF started his climbout, still VFR and not talking to me, I was also working a Cherokee on an IFR flight plan southeast-bound on the airway. A traffic call or two with no sighting later, I gave the Cherokee an off-course vector so the BUFF would miss him in the climb. The BUFF called us just about the same time he flew off the left wing of the Cherokee. The BUFF pilot claimed to have had the Cherokee in sight and the Cherokee pilot was mighty glad I’d moved him, stating that was one big airplane moving fast!
    Fast forward twenty years, and I was working a BUFF in the airport control pattern as he was leaving the airport after a weekend airshow. An inbound Tomahawk couldn’t pick out the BUFF below and ahead to follow, but the BUFF saw the Tomahawk and gave him a wide berth. Suddenly, the Tomahawk pilot exclaimed, “I see him, I see him! Dang, he’s big!” Amazing what a little camouflage can do for an aircraft.