By Airman 1st Class Sydney Campbell
2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs
A gremlin pokes out from behind the tail of a B-52 Stratofortress at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Oct. 30, 2018. Gremlins are creatures that destroy aircraft to make more work for crew chiefs. (U.S. Air Force graphic by Airman 1st Class Sydney Campbell)
Over the years, the B-52 Stratofortress has endured damage from many different types of threats. Things like hostile fire, foreign object debris, and more. But none stand up to the terrible…ferocious…small…gremlins.
The tales of these creatures can haunt the dreams of many maintainers, but mostly crew chiefs.
“They wreak havoc on the planes and we have to fix it,” said Airman 1st Class Gerald Betz, 2nd Maintenance Squadron repair and reclamation apprentice. “There have been many encounters where pilots can see these beasts on the wings of the B-52.”
Standing at three-feet tall, these creatures are the perfect size to fit in the cracks and crevices of the B-52. Their small size does not equate to friendly behavior or kind appearance.
“They have bat like wings, black fur, red eyes and suction cup feet or hooks to hang onto the B-52,” Betz said in fear. “They look like goblins and they tear up parts of the wing or jump into engines causing problems. They destroy planes while in flight, making a lot of work for us crew chiefs.”
Almost any B-52 issue can be attributed to the wrath of a gremlin.
“If you have a messed up wheel, it’s probably a gremlin that popped it,” Betz continued. “Sometimes they will chew on spoiler hinges or poke holes in the fuselage. Our shop then has to take it apart and repair it all.”
While most crew chiefs will never see one in person, their tales keep them awake in fear.
“Some people think that when a plane flies, a bird gets to it and causes damage. I believe it’s the gremlins,” said Airman 1st Class Jonathan Pollock, 2nd MXS repair and reclamation apprentice. “A bird can’t cause the amount of damage to an aircraft that we’ve seen, it has to be a gremlin.”
Airmen across the Air Force know the damage a gremlin can cause.
“My cousin told me about a time there was an inflight emergency and he could hear loud banging over the radio, so he went out to check on it, that’s when he heard growling and could see the little monsters jumping on the wing.”
Pollock describes a personal experience with the fierce beasts.
“When I first got here, there was a B-52 that was about to land and we could hear over the radio that a gremlin was trying to yank off the wheel,” Pollock said. “And sure enough that plane had to land without one of its wheels.”
While these creatures may wreak havoc, these crew chiefs have some advice if Airmen want to survive their furry fury.
“You can run away or you can leave them snacks,” Pollock said. “Since Halloween is around the corner we leave them treats so they will be nice to us. They seem to like candy.”
These beasts are hard to catch and are not nice. Keep in mind that though they are mean, they are not deadly. Take precaution this Halloween, they might leave the flight line and spread fear, create mayhem, or worse… steal your candy.