Love has a funny way of creeping up on a person. Just ask
Lt. Col. Steven R. Smith, 93rd Bomb Squadron flight
On March 3, 2017 ... Smith exceeded the 10,000 hour mark
in the B-52 Stratofortress, a jet he now loves. Smith’s deep
affection for the bomber has led him to a long and
successful career in the Air Force. But three decades ago,
upon receiving his assignment to the jet, his first
reactions were disappointment and anger.
March 3, 2017 - U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Steve Smith, 93rd Bomb
Squadron flight instructor, fields questions from the media at
Barksdale Air Force Base, LA. Smith just returned from a training
mission where he surpassed 10,000 flight hours in the B-52
Stratofortress. During his career, Smith helped train more than 1800
B-52 air crew members. He was also instrumental in developing a
targeting pod for the jet that improved weapon accuracy. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Ted Daigle)
“I was in the
top 10 percent of my class in navigator school and the B-52
was not even on my wish list, so I was really upset,” said
Smith. “I remember my advisor trying to tell me I was going
to love it, but I didn’t believe him.”
He is a believer
now. The milestone gives him more hours in the aircraft than
any pilot currently serving in the Air Force, according to
officials at Boeing. For Smith, however, 10,000 flight hours
is just another number.
“It does not mean I’m smarter or
better than anyone else here, there are lots of people in
this unit smarter than I am,” he said. “It just means I love
the B-52. It has been the center point of my whole
career”.Smith never planned on having so many flight hours
in the B-52. When he arrived at his first duty station,
rumors circulating throughout the bomber community sounded
like his time in the aircraft would be short.
talk about a new bomber coming into the inventory soon, so I
thought I would just stick it out until they replaced it,”
The change never happened, but a change in
perspective certainly did. In spite of his initial dislike
of it, Smith found himself growing fonder of the B-52 with
each passing year.
“I was on active duty for seven years
so I flew quite a bit and it was something I just found
myself enjoying,” he said.
After separating from active
duty, Smith joined the Air Force Reserve and was assigned to
the 93rd BS. At that time, the squadron had a combat mission
and a high operational tempo. Smith’s fondness for the jet
propelled him to attend every mission briefing he could.
“I figured each time I went to a briefing, there would be a
25 percent chance I’d get on the jet,” he said. “Turns out,
I got on almost every time.”
With each flight hour,
Smith’s love of the B-52 grew and he gained a reputation for
excellence and ability.
“He is the B-52 warrior of
warriors”, said Col. James Morriss, III, 307th Bomb Wing
vice-commander. “When he is part of the flight crew, you
know there is nothing to worry about on that mission.”
After the 93rd BS was designated as a flight training unit,
Smith was tapped to be an instructor. Soon, all his
experience began to have an impact on the larger Air Force
“His training and mentorship are directly
responsible for preparing two generations of B-52 pilots,”
said Morriss. “People all around the world owe their
capabilities to him.”
Col. Rob Burgess, 307th Operations
Group commander, agreed with Morriss’ assessment.
experience and credibility are priceless for the students,”
he said. “At 2000 hours, a pilot really has their respect,
but at 10,000 hours you are a B-52 legend.”
March 3, 2017 - U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Brent Weisner, 93rd Bomb Squadron
commander waves the U.S. flag and gives a thumbs-up prior to takeoff
at Barksdale Air Force Base, LA. The gestures by Weisner signified the historic nature of the flight which gave Lt.
Col. Steve Smith, 93rd BS flight instructor, more than 10,000 flight
hours in the B-52 Stratofortress. Smith has more hours in the B-52
than any other current member of the Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Ted Daigle)
he never intended to be an instructor, but is grateful for
“It has been extremely rewarding, watching the
students learn the jet and it has been a great privilege to
see them perform so well in combat,” he said.
contributions extend beyond the schoolhouse. He has flown in
multiple combat missions, including some while still serving
as an instructor. He’s also helped to develop the targeting
pod which allows for greater target accuracy.
Smith’s efforts have been to improve things for others, said
“He is a real team player,” he said. “It was
never about him, always about the students, the jet and the
As for the future, Smith said it is getting
more difficult to keep up his current pace, but he still
wants to try.
“I’ve got another two years to go and I’ll
probably ask for an extension,” he said. “I’d like to fly
another 1,000 hours.”
By U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Ted Daigle
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