Happy Saturday, FighterSweep Fans! This is a pretty cool story that was shared with us and we wanted to pass it on to you. Traditional “nose art” was banned by the U.S. Air Force in the 1970s, and only returned in 1998. Long gone are the days of the scantily-clad pinup girls which adorned many a fighter and bomber during World War II, but that doesn’t make any of today’s examples any less iconic.

Steve Barba may very well be the artist behind some of the art you’re seeing on the Air Force’s current bomber fleet. A resident of Sturgis, South Dakota, Barba was a “Crew Dog” for fifteen years on the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress, and for five years on the B-1B Lancer. Amazingly, his entire career–1981-2001– was at Ellsworth Air Force Base in Rapid City.

“The Crew Chiefs own the aircraft. The Pilots do not own the aircraft,” Barba says. “Crew Chiefs own the aircraft. That’s our baby. Pilots borrow it for the day.”

You can tell Barba is passionate about what he does, whether it’s airplanes or art, and is proud of the role he played in maintaining key parts of America’s strategic bombing capability.

“You know, Crew Chiefs are on the flight line, we’re dealing with real world stuff,” Barba reflects. “We’re dealing with flight crews lives, we’re dealing with assets worth millions and millions of dollars.”

A Veteran With A Nose For Art!
Steve Barba has painted nose art on fifty active-duty USAF aircraft since 1996. (Photo by Scott Wolff)

Growing up, Barba was fascinated by World War Two nose art. But by the time he joined the Air Force, the art form had been banned. “I was like, that time has passed, you know, I was born 40 years too late,” said Barba.

When the ban was lifted, Barba got a shot. “I was pretty nervous doing the first one.”

Thankfully, it was the start of something awesome. The current regulation on nose art specifies a three foot by three foot square. “I did 19 when I was in the military and then 31 when I was out.”

“I’ve painted 50 [examples] and I think I’m the only guy in the nation who’s painted that many active duty aircraft.”

What an amazing legacy…

The original interview appears here in its entirety on Black Hills Fox.
(Featured photo by Scott Wolff)