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Buffing the Buff

By Airman 1st Class Lillian Combes 2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs

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A B-52 Stratofortress is perched on the flight line in the dead of the night. There is a stack of tools and a small crowd of Airmen waiting nearby. Beams of light are broadcasting from floodlights, signaling the start of the wash.

Stars settle above the pavement of the flight line as Airmen with the 2nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron prepare to clean a B-52.

The Airmen wash the aircraft to prevent corrosion including rust. Avoiding rust can prevent the deterioration of parts and ensure the safety of the pilots and crew.

“In preparation of the wash, the team seals off openings of the B-52 so water and chemicals don’t get into parts of the aircraft,” said Staff Sgt. Angel Ducasse 2nd AMXS quality assurance inspector.

The team uses painters tape and thick paper to seal open areas around the engines, hatches and other holes. The wash team also uses special plugs and plates for the engines.

 A dedicated crew chief, who oversees the wash, gives a safety brief and checks to ensure the B-52 is properly prepared to be washed while the team dons protective suits.

“The suits are made for safety,” Ducasse said. “The team uses a soap with chemicals that can be harmful to the skin.”

The team of 10-15 Airmen splits up. The washers start by spraying sections of the plane with water and others follow up by spraying the B-52 with soap. Other Airmen standby with sponges and brushes.

“The entire process takes several hours, but once we get in the zone we knock it out quickly,” said Airman 1st Class Thomas Chase, 2nd AMXS crew chief and member of a wash team.

As the sun begins to rise, the B-52 is wheeled off to a hangar to dry from the shower delivered by the Airmen. The Airmen themselves return to their homes, drenched in sweat ready for a shower of their own.