Watch NBA Legend Karl Malone Take The Controls Of A B-52 Bomber In Flight

Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana hosted a meeting of two legends earlier this month. Retired NBA Hall of Famer and 14-time All-Star Karl Malone visited the base and got fly in the cockpit of one of the 2nd Bomb Wing’s venerable B-52H bombers, even taking the controls for a period.

Malone, who is a Louisana native, spent Feb. 5 and 6 at Barksdale as part of a tour and public relations event. In addition to the B-52 flight, he had a chance to meet with various Air Force personnel, offer thoughts on leadership, and even give some pointers to the base’s intramural basketball team. 

Check out a bit of the Mailman’s B-52 adventure in the video below:

Malone retired from the NBA in 2005 after a 20-year career, the bulk of which was spent with the Utah Jazz. He also played a single season with the Los Angeles Lakers and represented the United States in two Olympics, including as a member of the famous “Dream Team” at the 1992 summer games in Barcelona, Spain. In addition to his many appearances in the All-Star game and his induction into the Hall of Fame in 2010, Malone continues to rank second in career points scored behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He also holds the records for both career free throws made and attempted. 

Karl Malone at Barksdale Air Force Base in February 2020., USAF

All told, the pilots and airmen at Barksdale were undoubtedly honored and excited to meet him and maybe play a little basketball with him, but the B-52 flight seems to have been among the high points for Malone himself. “I used to come out to the base, sit outside the gate, pull over to the side of the road and watch the planes go overhead,” he said in an official interview.

“I’ve seen them from the ground and have seen them flying over,” he continued. “But to be inside a B-52 and see its capabilities, it’s surreal.”

The Air Force didn’t just drop him into the cockpit, either. Barksdale’s 2nd Operational Support Squadron helped Malone get ready for the flight, including fitting the 6-foot-9 retired power forward with the proper flight equipment. They also gave him basic training on how to get out of the aircraft or eject in case of an emergency. 

Karl Malone hangs inside a parachute simulator at Barksdale Air Force Base while learning about the procedure for ejecting from a B-52 prior to his flight., USAF

During the flight, Malone wore a flight suit with a specially made name patch that included his NBA nickname, “The Mailman,” as well as red devil, reflecting the unit insignia of the 96th Bomb Squadron, “The Devil’s Own,” which is part of the 2nd Bomb Wing. He also had 96th and 343rd Bomb Squadron shoulder patches. The 343rd is an Air Force Reserve unit that is assigned to the 307th Bomb Wing, which is also based at Barksdale and aligned with the active-component 2nd Bomb Wing. 

A close up of Karl Malone’s unique name patch., USAF
The official insignia of the 96th Bomb Squadron, “The Devil’s Own.”, US Army

Official pictures also show Malone standing next to a B-52 nicknamed Cajun Fear, which also has the serial number 60-0062 and may have been the bomber he flew on. The “60” in the serial number represents the fiscal year in which the Air Force purchased the aircraft, three years before Malone, who is now 56, was born.

Karl Malone stands next to a B-52, with the serial number 60-0062, nicknamed Cajun Fear., USAF

At present, the Air Force is expecting to keep flying B-52s, the last of which rolled off Boeing’s production line in 1962, at least until 2050. The aircraft is set to receive a host of upgrades to improve its capabilities and general performance, including new radars and engines. The service also sees them as the primary platform for carrying an array of future hypersonic weapons

In addition, the B-52s will also continue to be an important component of the aerial portion of America’s nuclear triad and are slated to carry the future stealthy Long Range Stand Off (LRSO) nuclear-armed cruise missile. The bombers are no longer certified to carry nuclear gravity bombs.

“I haven’t wiped the smile off of my face,” Malone said of his chance to fly in one of the 2nd Bomb Wing’s B-52s and his tour of Barksdale. “After spending these last two days with these Airmen, and I know it’s cliché, but I’m proud to be an American.”

Karl Malone inside the cockpit of a B-52., USAF

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Joseph Trevithick

Deputy Editor

Joseph has been a member of The War Zone team since early 2017. Prior to that, he was an Associate Editor at War Is Boring, and his byline has appeared in other publications, including Small Arms Review, Small Arms Defense Journal, Reuters, We Are the Mighty, and Task & Purpose.