Greased Lightning

October 16th,1963; A Convair B-58 Hustler nicknamed "Greased Lightning" took to the skies from Tokyo with one mission in mind.  To smash the world record for the longest supersonic flight in history.  Tokyo to London (via Alaska), a distance of 8,028 miles in an astounding 8 hours, 35 minutes, 20.4 seconds, averaging 938 miles per hour. A record that as of 2016, still stands.

The B-58, designed by Convair was the world's first operational Mach 2 Bomber that was built for use in the USAF and Strategic Air Command.  The B-58 Hustler utilized 4 engines in underwing pods each capable of 15,600 pounds of thrust with afterburners, and carried up to five nuclear weapons; four on pylons under the wings, and one nuclear weapon and fuel in a combination bomb/fuel pod under the fuselage.  

Due to the introduction of Soviet Surface To Air Missiles, the B-58's operational role became one of low-level supersonic penetration. One performance specification the Hustler could always deliver is that she was built for speed. The specific B-58 aircraft used for the record-breaking attempt was not modified in any way other than being washed and waxed before the flight.  

The supersonic speed of the record-setting flight was limited only by the speed at which they believed the honeycomb aircraft panels would begin to delaminate, although one of the afterburners malfunctioned en route, and the last hour of the flight was continued at subsonic speed. This reduced the average speed to roughly Mach 1.5, despite most of the flight being at Mach 2.

The other limiting factor was the high fuel burn rate required for the long-distance supersonic speeds, "Greased Lighting" was forced to refuel in air 5 times while en route. Each time required the aircraft to slow down to rendezvous with the slower re-fueling aircraft.  

Before her retirement in January 1970, The B-58 Hustler set a total of 19 world speed records, including coast to coast, and intercontinental speed records, and earned record-winning aerospace trophies like the Bleriot trophy, the Thomson trophy, the Mackay trophy, the Bendix trophy and the Harmon trophy.



Since Hustler pilots were the only USAF pilots experienced in long-duration supersonic flight, several former crews were selected for the SR-71 Blackbird as their next assignment.  

Pilots considered the Hustler to be one of the sexiest aircraft to have ever graced the skies, but most do not know that the B-58 Hustler was equipped with the newly developed Nortronics Division automated cockpit voice warnings featuring the voice of actress and singer Joan Elms. To the crews flying the B-58 Hustler, the voice was known as "Sexy Sally."




  • feetdry

    I’m surprised John Denver’s dad is not mentioned in this article.He had many hours flying this supersonic wonder.

  • Clint Lowe

    My father,Andrew Lowe, was a crew chief on the ‘58 at Carswell during the early ‘60’s. As a young boy, I relished Dad taking us out to watch evening launches. The Hustlers would be a dark silhouette moving to the runway. After lining up, you’d hear the power coming up and shortly the engines would light off their afterburners and the noise was incredible. Now moving rapidly down the runway, the aircraft rotated as the 15-20-foot ‘burner flames would lick the pavement as takeoff speed was reached and the plane would rise into the air. Still the burners stayed lit until the plane was a mile-or-two away when the throttles were brought back and the ‘58 virtually disappeared except for its winking anti-collision lights. It was with these memories I came upon Greased Lightning as a static display aircraft at Chanute AFB in 1976 when I was in technical training there. I had a professional photographer take a picture of it and presented the framed photo to my father for Christmas that year. Though Dad is long gone, my mother still proudly displays it to this day.

  • Bob Adams

    I was a firefighter at Carswell AFB and I loved to watch them take off and land. It was a beautiful bird. Unfortunately I had to fight the first one to crash on base. I was there for most of the records set.

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