Captain Abraham Morland flew a B-1B over Super Bowl LV in a one-of-a-kind three-bomber flyby.
It flew over Raymond James Stadium with a B-2 stealth bomber and a B-52.
The overflight took four years and initial planning began almost a year ago.
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Super Bowl LV was radically different from previous Super Bowls, starting with the ambitious and technically accurate bomber flyby that opened the game.
The smaller-than-usual crowd, capped at 22,000 due to COVID-19 restrictions, witnessed a dramatic three-bomber flyby for years thanks to hours of planning and practice by Captain Abraham Morland and his teammates .
“This is the first flyby where the three Air Force bombers fly over a major sporting event,” Morland told Insider. “To me that was symbolic because it was all about Global Strike Command, all of our bombers in the air at the same time flying together, which is a unique thing that I may never see again.”
Morland, a member of the 37th Bomb Squadron at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota, typically spends his days as a B-1B Lancer instructor pilot, flying several times a week and training in a flight simulator.
“I was very excited to have been chosen for this once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Morland.
Pilot the B-1B
Morland’s father is an Air Force veteran who now works as a flight simulator technician.
“Since I can remember well, I’ve always wanted to fly,” said Morland. “My dad would take me to the simulators. He let me fly the simulators. So from there, I just had the love and bug of flying.”
Morland obtained his pilot’s license while participating in the ROTC program at Angelo State University after enlisting in the Air Force reserves in 2007. He obtained his wings at Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas. and learned to fly the B-1B at Dyess Air Force Base before being stationed. in Ellsworth.
“I went to pilot training at Sheppard, and the cool thing about Sheppard is that it’s the Euro-NATO joint pilot training center,” Morland said. “So they’re taking all the NATO fighter pilot candidates, and they’re going to come and train there.”
The B-1B was not Morland’s first choice – he initially believed he would fly fighter jets.
“After I started flying, I saw that the B-1 could maneuver like a fighter,” he said. “It doesn’t attract as many Gs as a fighter, but … I really liked the idea of having other people on board, just being able to hang out with other people while you work instead of being alone. “
The B-1B is a strategic heavy bomber designed during the Cold War. It can no longer carry nuclear weapons, but it can carry the largest payload of unguided and guided missiles, bombs, mines and cluster munitions – up to 75,000 pounds of ammunition.
The B-1B still performs combat missions, but is phased out in favor of the nuclear-capable B-21 Raider stealth bomber, built by Northrop Grumman for around $ 550 million each. The first of 17 B-1Bs to be retired in the coming months was transported this month to the Air Force “boneyard”, and the remaining 45 will be retired by 2036.
The B-1B can also fly at supersonic speeds and, with aerial refueling, perform extra-long sorties, like the 28-hour flight Morland made in April to fly with the Japanese Air Force.
“It was actually a lot of fun,” he said. “The most important thing is to make sure you get on your sleep schedule a few days before then you are good to go.”
The four crew members keep each other vigilant during the long mission, he said.
“Some people consume energy drinks. Some people chew on sunflower seeds to stay awake and alert – that’s all you need, just to make sure we get the job done.”
More than a show
Morland’s crew during the Super Bowl flyby included himself, another pilot, and two weapons officers. During an overflight of a civilian event, Weapons Officers do not manage missiles and targets; they help navigate and make sure the overflight is properly timed.
For the Super Bowl, the whole crew “make sure we meet the other aircraft on time and back up the other aircraft to make sure we’re going through the stadium on the note we were supposed to do,” Morland said. , referring to the moment of the national anthem when the bombers roared above the crowd.
The crews timed the flyby “perfectly”, passing through the stadium as red and blue fireworks hit the sky behind them, Morland said. The plane was also flying low and quickly – up to 300 mph.
The overflight lasted four years and initial planning began nearly a year ago, according to the Air Force.
“Normally you work with a unit that is used to doing this type of overflight, so that was a new dynamic for us,” said Lt. Col. Chris McAlear, the trio’s Super Bowl ground liaison, in A press release. “Once we selected the final crews and obtained the NFL times on the end of the national anthem, I prepared a detailed event briefing for the three flight crews.”
The Air Force should also coordinate with the Federal Aviation Administration to ensure there are no air traffic issues.
After months of planning, the three planes flew from their respective bases – the B-52 at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota, the B-1 from Ellsworth and the B-2 from Whiteman Air Force Base in the Missouri, plus KC-1135 refueling tankers from MacDill Air Force Base in Florida – for early game day practice.
“I have flown with the B-52s and B-2s before, but not in this formation position,” said Morland. “So we have this practice compared to the normal practice, where we are a little further.”
He added: “But since we had a narrower area that we had to fly over, we had to be closer in order to make it on time, first of all, and fit it and make it look like what ‘it was.”
The three planes circled the airspace just south of Tampa, Florida, waiting for McAlear to tell them it was time to fly.
Overflights have a training purpose, Morland said.
“The best training we can get is to fly to another part of the country rather than going to our local training area and knowing what’s already there up there. So that shows, first of all, that we can take off from three different bases, meet you and be where we need to be on time. “
Overflights are also a powerful recruiting tool for the military, Morland added. The B-2 pilot flying next to Morland, Captain Sarah Kociuba, told Marie Claire that a flyby of B-2 she saw at age 11 had inspired her to join the Air Force.
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