The B-52 “Midnight Express” is towed along I-405 while en route from Paine Field in Everett to the Museum of Flight at Boeing Field in Seattle early Sunday morning. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

The B-52 “Midnight Express” is towed along I-405 while en route from Paine Field in Everett to the Museum of Flight at Boeing Field in Seattle early Sunday morning. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

A B-52 known as ‘Midnight Express’ takes freeways to Seattle

Stored at Paine Field in Everett for 26 years, it now has a permanent home at the Museum of Flight.

EVERETT — With its nose in the air and fresh paint under its chin, a 1959 B-52 bomber took a 40-mile road trip Sunday from Paine Field to the Museum of Flight in Seattle, stopping traffic and startling passersby as it merged onto the I-405 and I-5 freeways.

Retired from service in late 1991, the Boeing B-52G spent the past 26 years stored in the open at Paine Field in Everett.

For the three-hour journey, pilot trucks, police and state troopers fanned across roadways to re-route traffic and safeguard the semi-truck and its cargo, the B-52’s 170-foot fuselage.

Light bulbs hung on either side of the airplane for safety. It was lit up like a parade float.

As the big bomber eased onto the Mukilteo Speedway about 2 a.m., motorists gawked and slowed to a crawl to give the orca-like warbird plenty of rumble room.

As it picked up speed on the straightaway, an astonished teenager watching from the sidewalk shouted: “It’s a damn plane on the damn road!”

This time, no one had to notify the Kremlin that a B-52 was on the move. A Cold War agreement to limit nuclear arms (SALT I and II) once required the United States to alert Soviet or Russian authorities when a B-52, designed to carry nuclear weapons, was moved.

The B-52 “Midnight Express” is towed along Highway 525 from Paine Field en route to Boeing Field in Seattle early Sunday morning. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

The B-52 “Midnight Express” is towed along Highway 525 from Paine Field en route to Boeing Field in Seattle early Sunday morning. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

The retired B-52G Stratofortress “was tracked like all the other B-52s,” even when it was relocated from one part of the airport to another, said Ted Huetter, Museum of Flight spokesman.

Stripped of military components, the jet-powered, long-range strategic bomber is on permanent loan to the museum from the U.S. Air Force.

It took five large cranes last week to remove the 100-foot wings, which were transported separately by trucks, Huetter said.

Until recently, there was no room at the museum for the 58-year-old B-52, whose nickname, “Midnight Express,” was stenciled near its nose.

“We just have not had a place for it,” Huetter said.

In 2012, the B-52’s crew of 1972 held a reunion at Paine Field and vowed to restore their old friend.

The crew of “Midnight Express” in 1972. (Museum of Flight)

The crew of “Midnight Express” in 1972. (Museum of Flight)

Museum of Flight
                                The crew of “Midnight Express” B-52 in 2012.

Museum of Flight The crew of “Midnight Express” B-52 in 2012.

Armed with conventional weapons, B-52s were used extensively in Vietnam, Huetter said.

With the museum’s backing, the crew and other supporters launched “Project Welcome Home,” raising more than $1 million.

Among the project’s leadership: former Air Force pilot Joe Crecca of North Bend, who spent more than six years as a prisoner of war at the infamous Hoa Lo prison — “The Hanoi Hilton” — after his McDonnell F-4C Phantom was shot down in 1966.

Now, the B-52 is destined to become the centerpiece of a new museum exhibit, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Park, opening this fall. The free exhibit will be built around a “little park where people can reflect, remember the aircraft of the Vietnam War and the people who flew them,” Huetter said.

“This will put the capstone on the project,” he said.

The B-52 “Midnight Express” is towed along Highway 525 from Paine Field en route to Boeing Field in Seattle early Sunday morning. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

The B-52 “Midnight Express” is towed along Highway 525 from Paine Field en route to Boeing Field in Seattle early Sunday morning. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

The B-52 fuselage arrived intact Sunday morning at the museum at Boeing Field, wearing that new coat of camouflage.

At 8 a.m., a crowd gathered at the Museum’s Aviation Pavilion to celebrate the arrival.

“It will require many volunteers and many hours to put the plane back together,” Huetter said. “We figure it’s our summer project.”

________

This story was first published in the Everett Herald. Janice Podsada can be reached at jpodsada@heraldnet.com and 425-339-3097.


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@issaquahreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.issaquahreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in Northwest

As sales tax plummets in King County, mental health and drug program funding dries up

County will need to make severe cuts to MIDD program this year.

File photo of construction near North Bend on Aug. 16. Sound Publishing file photo
                                File photo of construction near North Bend on Aug. 16. Sound Publishing file photo
Rural King County mayors want state to let them enter Phase 2

Mayors cite heavy economic damage from prolonged shutdown.

State Parks offers three free days in June

No pass needed June 6, 7 and 13

Auburn Mountain View Cemetery Manager Craig Hudson, center, confers with maintenance workers David Partridge, left, and Zach Hopper in March 2020. Sound Publishing file photo
State allows weddings, funerals, religious services to restart with restrictions

Gov. Inslee issues new rules during May 27 news conference.

Macklemore will perform as part of a virtual concert June 10 to raise money for All In Wa, a group formed to support people in need because of the COVID-19 outbreak. COURTESY PHOTO
Group launches All In Wa fund to raise $65M for COVID-19 crisis relief

Fundraising includes a virtual concert June 10 featuring Pearl Jam, Macklemore and others

State loosens cougar hunting restrictions

The regulations will impact 19 areas around the state.

American Medical Response (AMR) organized a parade of first responders to show appreciation for St. Elizabeth Hospital staff April 30. Photo by Ray Miller-Still/Sound Publishing
The complications of counting COVID deaths in Washington

State relies on results of tests and death certificates in calculating the daily toll of the disease.

Republicans file lawsuit over Inslee’s emergency: ‘Facts, and the science, are clear’

Lawsuit says state has violated Constitutional rights of citizens.

Among the candidates for Washington state governor in 2020: (Top row, L-R): Omari Tahir Garrett, Winston Wilkes, Thor Amundson, Cameron Vessey, Martin ‘Iceman’ Wheeler, Ryan Ryals; (middle row L-R): Liz Hallock, Goodspaceguy, Gov. Jay Inslee, Don Rivers, Gene Hart; (bottom row L-R): Phil Fortunato, Tim Eyman, Alex Tsimerman, Cairo D’Almeida, Cregan Newhouse, Raul Garcia.
GOP gubernatorial hopefuls aim to oust Inslee amid COVID-19

Former Bothell mayor Joshua Freed and initiative-pusher Tim Eyman could be the front-runners.

Most Read