With the safe arrival of its second B-1B, the National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR) at Wichita State University would like to recognize the organizations responsible for preparing, transporting and unloading B-1B 86-0101, the “Watchman,” on its final 165-mile journey from Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City to NIAR’s Aircraft Structural Test and Evaluation Center in Park City, Kans.
At 130 feet long, 29 feet wide, and 16 feet tall, the transport required the team to navigate tight turns, twisting roads and steep inclines, clearing many obstacles by mere inches. Planning a route for this extremely oversized load requires skill to minimize the impact on public transportation and assure the safety of both the public and airframe, as it travels through rural Oklahoma and Kansas and into the city of Wichita.
The transportation and unloading of the airframe was a complex operation requiring many experts in the field to work cooperatively to safely deliver the airframe. NIAR appreciates the extraordinary efforts of Tinker Air Force Base for preparing the fuselage for transportation; Belger Cartage Service for loading in Oklahoma City and unloading safely in Park City; Flatbed Hauling Quotes, Inc. for their support transporting other airframe components; and Berard for safely transporting the fuselage.
In addition to the physical move team, NIAR would like to extend gratitude to the Oklahoma and Kansas Departments of Transportation for their assistance identifying and planning the route. The safe and successful move of this airframe would not have been possible without the outstanding police support/escort the team received from the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, Kansas Highway Patrol and local law enforcement officers all along the path, particularly with traffic support in the City of Wichita.
“We have experience with large aircraft moves at NIAR, but that doesn’t diminish the massive undertaking required to transport this aircraft,” said Melinda Laubach-Hock, NIAR B-1 program manager and director of Sustainment. “We cannot adequately express our gratitude for the professionalism and experience of all organizations involved in transporting the Watchman.”
The B1 aircraft is part of a research project with the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center B-1 Division to study the effects of flight operations on aircraft structures. The NIAR team will dismantle the B-1B 86-0101 fuselage; remove the paint and primer; and perform high-fidelity inspections for cracks and corrosion on the entire fuselage, including areas that have been inaccessible since manufacturing in the mid-1980s. To augment the ongoing NIAR B-1 Digital Twin Program, components that were not delivered with the Digital Twin fuselage will be scanned and digitized to complete the virtual fuselage model.
The National Institute for Aviation Research provides research, testing, certification and training for aviation and manufacturing technologies. Established in 1985, NIAR has a +$125 million annual budget; 850 staff and nearly one million square feet of laboratory and office space in four locations across the city of Wichita, the Air Capital of the World. NIAR laboratories include Additive Manufacturing, Advanced Coatings, Advanced Manufacturing, Aging Aircraft, Ballistics/Impact Dynamics, CAD/CAM, Composites/Advanced Materials, Crash Dynamics, Environmental/Electromagnetic Test, Full-scale Structural Test, Nondestructive Test, Reverse Engineering, Robotics/Automation, Virtual Engineering, eXtended Reality and the Walter H. Beech Wind Tunnel. www.niar.wichita.edu