In North Dakota: View from a BUFF, A B-52 Bomber

This ancient bomber is groping upward, electronically blind, attempting to join five others stacked in layers just 500 ft. apart. At 10,000 ft. the sky is an inkwell, and the primary and back-up heading systems are out. The radar works sporadically, and even when it does function, it provides tunnel vision, off to one side. The only dependable navigation aid is a simple compass, just like the ones people stick on the dashboards of their cars.

The pilot and copilot, Don Schlaht and Dave Maher, swivel their helmeted heads, straining to pick up the flashing lights of the other planes, their own...

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