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A U.S. Air Force 509th Bomb Wing B-2 Spirit refuels from a 351st Aerial Refueling Squadron KC-135 Stratotanker during the Bomber Task Force training exercise over England, Aug. 29, 2019. The B-2 aircraft will operate out of RAF Fairford, England, and will exercise there at U.S. Air Forces in Europe's forward operating location for bombers. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jordan Castelan)

Could This Stealth Bomber Have A Bed And A Microwave Oven?

The B-2 has a rich heritage of service to the United States military. Historically, a husband-and-wife team both flew B-2s.

I saw a B-2 Spirit bomber in action at an aviation show. Only 21 of these stealth-flying wings were ever made, so the Air Force assured us that this was a unique opportunity for the public to see one. It was a sight to behold as it was being put through its paces at the fair.

This plane has the firepower and range to swing the Cold War in any direction. The fact that the Air Force was willing to spend at least $2 billion on each bomber in today’s money demonstrates how highly they regard the B-2.

It’s safe to say that the B-2 has had a varied and eventful past. Once upon a time, a husband and wife team jointly flew the B-2. To our knowledge, Lt. Col. John Avery and Lt. Col. Jennifer Avery were the first husband-and-wife combo to pilot the stealth bomber.

There have only been 700 B-2 crew members in history. Five crew members are on board the B-2, including two pilots, two navigators, and an electronic warfare officer. One hundred and fifty people have become pilots, and 10 were women.

Lt. Col. Jennifer Avery was the first female pilot to take control of a B-2 in 2002. That’s the same lady that tied the knot with fellow B-2 pilot John Avery.

Avery thought back to how, on that fateful day, she had been so excited and nervous that she had forgotten her left-hand glove.

Aerotech News chronicled the first B-2 flight with a female pilot. As she gathered her parachute, helmet, and other equipment, she reached for two pairs of right-handed gloves. Avery had just learned when she was already in the cockpit and ready to take off. So she turned one glove inside out and hoped the instructor pilot seated next to her wouldn’t notice. He did.” The flight was successful despite the setbacks, though.

The B-2 required alterations so that female pilots could fly alongside male pilots. A curtain was required in the restroom of the airliner to ensure privacy. The longest flight on record lasted 44 hours but might endure for many more.

There’s a bed on board for fast snoozes, plus a microwave for hot meals.

It’s just part of the crew’s routine to go on long missions. B-2 pilot and 13th Bomb Squadron captain Mike Haffner stressed the need for maintaining vigilance in an interview with Defense News. He advised that the team “not get lulled into a false feeling of security” by the belief that they had 12 hours or more to reach the target region once the mission had begun. As the saying goes, “once you fall behind the power curve, it’s hard to recover.” Therefore, it’s important to be efficient and get things done so you can take turns napping and stay ahead of it.

Several pilots have compared flying a bomber, which uses a fly-by-wire system, to flying a commercial aircraft. Coffee may help the team stay awake, but it also means more frequent stops for toilet breaks. The bomber is stored at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, where a medical team researches the health effects of long-distance travel.

In the late 1970s, during Jimmy Carter’s presidency, the B-2 program started. Despite the Air Force’s initial desire for more than 100 bombers, funding cuts following the Cold War resulted in only 20 being operational at any given time. According to the designers, the plane has a radar footprint smaller than a pigeon. In 1999, it saw its first active combat service in Kosovo. Although the B-2 has never been lost in battle, its operation costs $135,000 per hour.

The B-21 Raider, the B-2’s successor, will take over that role. It’s had a pleasant journey. I’m unaware of any other military aircraft featuring a husband-and-wife flight crew. Crews like these show that humans can fly for nearly two days straight. It would help if you tried to attend an air show at some point in your life, as the experience of seeing that huge flying wing approach you is one you won’t soon forget.

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