The WB-57 is a mid-wing, long-range aircraft capable of operation for extended periods of time from sea level to altitudes in excess of 60,000 feet. Two crewmembers are positioned at separate tandem stations in the cockpit. The pilot station contains all the essential equipment for flying the aircraft. The sensor operator station contains both navigational equipment and controls for the operation of the payloads and payload support systems located throughout the aircraft. The WB-57 can remain aloft for approximately 6.5 hours, flying both day and night, so long as separation from hazardous weather can be maintained. With a range of 2,500 miles, the aircraft can be deployed to any continent. Please contact the WB-57 Program Office with any further inquiries.
Flight rules dictate that the WB-57 may fly with a minimum altitude of 100 feet above ground level. This requires permission from Aircraft Operations management, and is considered on a case-by-case basis.
There are several factors that dictate the maximum altitude of the aircraft; however, the two most prominent variables are the gross weight and the overall drag. The aircraft is capable of higher altitudes later in flight due to fuel burn, while drag is increased by adding wing pods, instrument inlets, and any other items that protrude outside the aircraft.
Air Traffic Control (ATC) Limitations
The WB-57 is confined to all the rules of ATC, just as any other military or commercial aircraft would be. Therefore, it is important to consider any ATC jurisdiction when planning a flight. In general, it is usually easy to get clearances above 45,000 feet. It can be considerably harder to get cleared between 35,000 - 45,000 feet, especially around metropolitan areas. Below 35,000 feet it can be quite difficult to get a clearance unless the flight is in a low traffic area. This is not to say the aircraft can't pass through these high-traffic areas; however, ATC, may not allow the aircraft to maneuver as desired for experimental purposes.
Low Visibility Limitations
For flight operations at night or in cloudy conditions, the pilot will be more conservative with fuel estimations, which may decrease the flight time slightly. The aircraft is equipped with weather radar, which will aid in deconflicting with thunderstorms during both day and night operations; however, it should be noted that certain payloads in the nose have had to remove radar for logistical reasons. In these instances, another deconfliction method has been employed by the use of a stormscope and/or ground radar stations.