3-Ship NASA WB-57 Formation Makes Historic Flight

  • Nov 20, 2015 9:50pm GMT

Check out the video and photos of a historic event by NASA. On Thursday, November 20th, NASA flew three Martin WB-57 Canberras in formation over Houston, Texas for the first time in history of the NASA WB-57 program.

The WB-57 is a high altitude research aircraft exceeding altitudes of 60,000 feet. The plane can fly close to 6.5 hours and has a range of 2,500 miles. The mission of the aircraft includes measuring atmospheric conditions above hurricanes to recording video. Previous versions of the B-57 were first used during the Vietnam War for high altitude bombing. NASA’s WB-57s are among the few still flying in the world today.

NASA flew just two of the WB-57s from their home base at Ellington Field in Houston, Texas. In 2013 a third B-57 returned to the skies after sitting out in the desert sun mothballed at Davis-Monthan AFB.

According to Charlie Mallini, NASA WB-57 Project Manager said "It's the first time we have ever had all three planes together in Houston at one time. It is a rare occasion and decided to have them fly over landmarks around Houston."

In the videos you can see the flight crew getting prepped for a mission including a demonstration on how they eat and drink while flying missions up to 6.5 hours. Pilots and System Equipment Operator (SEO) go through various checks with their suits before getting on board and flying the WB-57.

While the WB-57s went out for the public display across Houston the media got the chance to get a closer look to the optical camera and surveillance system. They most recently flew missions over Hurricanes Joaquin and Patricia, providing real-time modeling data to storm scientists trying to predict the hurricane strength and path. Before the Space Shuttle program ended one of the B-57s captured the Shuttle launch from 50 miles away and at an altitude close to 70,000 ft. By tracking the shuttle the SEO was able to capture the shockwaves of the shuttle rocketing into space.

The WB-57 formation flew over Bush Intercontinental Airport, NRG Stadium, Houston city center, the San Jacinto Monument and NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

For onboard footage of the formation flight over the city visit Click2Houston.com