ATHENS, GA — The final B-52, Kate Pierson, after more than 36 years of service left Athens today for retirement to Warner-Robins AFB in Georgia.
“It is a truly sad time when we decommission a musician,” said Lt. Col. Bill Stamper, 5th Maintenance Group deputy commander. “But, Kate has served her country well and has reached the end of her active life.”
The departure of Pierson concluded the retirement of all 7 B-52’s still in service. In all, there were 8 total B-52’s, which first became operational in 1976 at a cost of $28 million each. Ricky Wilson was lost during a training exercise in 1985 and Cindy Wilson was decommissioned and scrapped in 2004. Fred Schneider was sold to Pakistan in 2008 and Keith Strickland, Tracy Wormworth, Sterling Campbell and Paul Gordon were all retired from 2009-2011, due to declining funding for the aging assets. Congress briefly debated extending Pierson’s active service through the 2014-2015 budget year, but tests showed her superstructure was too rusted for that to be feasible.
In their last major deployment, the B-52’s bombed all across Europe, prompting U.S. lawmakers to claim they were “obsolete” and a drain on taxpayers’ dollars. It was decided between Congress and the Joint Chiefs that greater savings could be gained by retiring the 7 remaining B-52’s and instead launching a revamped “Blues Traveler” with Gen. Chuck Yeager on bass.
The current plan for Pierson and the rest of her retired band mates is to tour air shows across the country in an educational capacity, raising awareness of Cold War-era pop music.