|Almost everyone who was a part of the B-36 program has a story to tell that is special to him. Space does not permit recording all of them, and many are not documented, but that does not infer that they did not happen. In this section we present just a few of those stories.|
John D. Bartlett was the original Project Officer for the transition training from B-29's to B-36's. Carl Moden recalls the Special Orders that placed fifteen men on TDY at Consolidated Aircraft Corporation for Familiarization and Transition. Those listed were George J. Benedict, James R. Cooper, Ernest O. Benefield, and Raymond J. Sealy from the 9th Bomb Sqdn.; Charles E. Crecelius, Kenneth L. Allen, John A. Harrington, Russell L. Stokum from the 436th Bomb Sqdn., and George E. Cameron, John D. Bartlett, Frank R. Sander, John L. Corley, Clyde M. Youngblood, and Carl T. Moden from the 492nd Bomb Sqdn.
Five crew chiefs were also assigned to Convair for training. Lowell E. Quilling from the 9th BS, E.A.Moore and Golden M. Joyner from the 436th BS, and Orville C. Simmonds and John T. Travis from the 492nd BS.
The Group would wait six months for the delivery of the first plane. In the meantime Moden and Youngblood would work with the factory and the AMC test hop crews to gain more information and experience. While they were not permitted to operate the Engineer's panel, they followed through on all pre-flight inspections and procedures. They would take turns riding in the forward and aft compartments during all phases of the mission. This included crawl-way inspections during flight, and lowering the landing gear using emergency procedures.
One of the ten flights flown with the AMC crew was a test of the bombing system. One hundred twenty 100-pound practice bombs were released in every possible configuration on the Midland Bombing Range. Moden and Youngblood spent five weeks with the AMC crew before returning to their squadron duties. Moden was the Squadron Flight Engineer, and Youngblood the Squadron Standardization Flight Engineer. Since their squadron had been designated as the unit to accept the delivery of the first B-36, a friendly "hassle" arose over who would be the first to check out in the new plane. Before the first plane was ready for the Pilot/Engineer proficiency flight and check-out, word was received that New York City had requested a B-36 flyover and static display at the dedication of Idlewild International Airport. The city was having a Golden Jubilee celebration that was to last ten days, and all types of aircraft were to take part. The initial checkout plans were changed and John Bartlett was designated as the one to go to New York. Cameron and Youngblood had been teamed up with Bartlett as co-pilot and flight engineer in B-29's, and thus were given the first official B-36 check out. Shortly after this Moden plus a maintenance crew and enough others to make up a twenty man crew made the trip to New York with Cameron in the left seat and Moden at the panel. As President Harry Truman made the dedication, Big John Bartlett's B-36 led a 700 plane flyby.
7 December 1948
John Harrington and Bill Hofer can fill anyone in on all the fine details of this event, but a brief recap will have to suffice here. The mission: To carry a simulated bomb load to Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1948 and be overhead at approximately the same time that the Japanese bombers had struck seven years earlier.
In November, John Bartlett, who was now a Major, together with others in the Group had been thinking of a way in which to prove the capability of the B-36, and began classified communications up the chain of command. Aircraft 2028 in the 436th BS was selected and test flown with very few write-ups. Just prior to take-off the plane was positioned at the end of the runway and the fuel tanks were topped off. With Bartlett as the Aircraft Commander, and John Harrington and Howard Hugos as pilots, the heavily loaded plane used every bit of the runway before it could be coaxed into the air. The other crewmembers on this flight were William Grabowski, a cruise control specialist, and Russ Stokum, Clyde Youngblood, and George McGraw sharing the duties of flight engineer. Wes Morris and Thomas Harkness operated the radar equipment and shared navigator's duties with Tom Heydon. Bill Hofer and V. Trippodi were the radio operators, and Bill Weiter, Tom Toombs, Truly Ponder, and Joe Ward were the scanners. When the brakes were first released, it seemed as though the plane had decided not to move. When it did start to roll there was considerable thumping caused by the flat spots on the tires. Witnesses at the north end of the runway prepared for a crash as it appeared that the plane was too heavy. Five of the crewmembers who would normally would fly in the forward compartment were sent aft to shift the center of gravity to the rear. The five-man life raft was also put on the cart in the tunnel, but it became stuck at mid-point. With those two big men bracing their feet on the rudder bar and pulling on the yoke, the ship finally broke ground and cleared Lake Worth by less than forty feet.
It took a while to get turned on course, and crew members reported that the skin surface looked like corrugated sheet metal. About an hour after takeoff near Midland, Texas, the crew had climbed to 6,000 feet, and managed to get to 8,000 feet by the time they reached El Paso. That was fortunate since there are a few mountains in that area that reach to that elevation. The route followed the Mexican border to the West Coast near San Diego.
This mission was flown with the utmost secrecy. A clearance had not been filed, and Air Sea Rescue was not notified so as not to give the island an advance notice. The simulated run was made at approximately the same time as the real one a few years prior. The presence of the B-36 had not been detected by the Navy or anyone else.
The return flight was uneventful, but adverse winds forced a change to the original plan and instead of landing at Washington D.C., the crew returned to Carswell. Number 6 had been feathered about an hour and half before the landing, and most of the prop oil had run out as well. The flight time was 35 hours and 30 minutes, and covered some 8,100 miles. This non-stop, non-refueled flight caused much concern, but it did demonstrate the potential of the B-36.
In his B-29 days Bill Hofer had created a position report log that would be passed between the radio operator and navigator. He used the log on this flight and tried to turn it in along with his radio logs at the critique. The debriefer deemed them to be too "messy" for a flight of this stature, and Hofer had to recopy all of the forms. He kept the old ones and turned them over to the Association, a valuable and neat addition to the memorabilia.
John Bartlett was the Flight Director on another historic flight in March 1949. With Roy Showalter as pilot and Clarence E. Horton as co-pilot, and John Corley and Carl Arrey as flight engineers, they completed a 9,600-mile flight with a 10,000-pound bomb drop at midpoint. After being in the air for 43 hours and 37 minutes they still had enough fuel for two more hours flight time, but with two props feathered and adverse winds that had been encountered, it was felt that the mission requirements had been fulfilled.
RECORD BOMB LOAD DROPPED
A record bomb drop was made in January 1949 when a mixed crew of Air Force and Convair personnel dropped two 42,000-pound dummy bombs at Muroc Dry Lake. With Major Steve Dillon, AMC Flight Acceptance Officer, and A.S. "Doc" Witchell, Convair test pilot, and Air Force bombardiers George Whitney and James Mahaffey as part of the crew, the first bomb was released at 35,000' and the second at 40,000'.
The first fatal crash occurred in September 1949 with the loss of five lives. One who died had survived the crash and was making a heroic effort to rescue two men who had been knocked unconscious in the nose and were still strapped to their seats.
Inquiry seemed to indicate that two propellers had gone into reverse for some unknown reason, and the plane slid off the runway into Lake Worth. Eventually propeller reverse lights were installed, but in the meantime a procedure known as the Vandenburg Shuffle was put into effect. Power was increased on each engine from outboard to inboard separately, and the brakes were released to see which way the plane would move. Robert Christian remembers a ground check where the crew would reverse numbers 1 and 6 (outboard), 2 and 5, then 3 and 4(inboard), then have someone step in front of the props to see which way the wind was blowing. At the end of the runway prior to take-off, a member of the crew from the front end would climb down the ladder and make sure that all of the engines were pushing air in the proper direction.
Harold Barry was one of Bartlett's early aircraft commanders who brought back a ship with only three engines turning on one side. It was a hot day in July 1949 while on a routine training mission over Denton County, Texas when fire broke out in number 3 engine nacelle. The fire was so intense that the engine fell from the wing, rendering the other two engines inoperative. Barry turned toward Carswell and made a perfect landing using the three engines on the right wing. The engine that burned off of the wing landed near the small community of Drop, Texas.
Barry was also the aircraft commander of the plane that went down in British Columbia in February 1950 while returning from an exercise in Alaska. Again an engine fire was to blame. The plane reached the coast before the bail out order was given, but strong winds were believed to have carried the first men out back over the water since their bodies were never recovered. The hardships endured by the survivors in the cold, wet weather were unbelievable. The unpiloted plane flew about 200 more miles inland before crashing into a mountain. Three years would pass before the wreckage was found, and then it was by accident. A search was being conducted for a doctor from Texas who was missing when the missing B-36 was spotted at a seven thousand foot elevation. The ground search party headed by Paul Gardella failed in the first attempt to reach the remote site. The time frame for ground travel in that region is rather narrow, and further search was postponed for a year.
Barry was on the B-36 near Oklahoma City when a P-51 fighter collided with the forward compartment during a gunnery exercise. There were no survivors from the front end. Four were able to escape from the rear compartment. One of these was Dick Thrasher who had also survived the ordeal in British Columbia.
The saga of the British Columbia crash continues with the interest shown by Scott Deaver in trying to pinpoint the exact site. After considerable correspondence with the Canadian government and other agencies involved in the ground search he obtained photos and maps of the area and spent a summer vacation visiting the area. A chartered flight over the mountain where the crash was reported to have been found was to no avail, however he did return with clippings from the local newspapers that told about the original search efforts.
William W. Blair was involved with three major accidents in a period of eleven months, twice as a crew chief and once as a passenger. In April 1951 he was one of the four survivors of the mid-air collision near Oklahoma City. Blair had gone on this flight to satisfy his requirement for flying time. He was standing at the end of the bunks when he heard what he later described as a horrendous thud, then deadly silence. The intercom went dead, and the sound of the engines died away. It seemed to him that the B-36 had come to an abrupt halt in mid-air. Then it shuddered and started to fall. As the metal from the front scraped back along the fuselage, those in the aft realized that it was time to leave the stricken ship. At the time of impact he had been thrown against the bunks. When he regained his balance, he saw the gunners unfastening their safety belts, so he headed for the escape hatch and tried to pull it open. The compartment had not lost pressurization at this time, and he stripped the skin from his fingers as he struggled with the handle. Finally someone dumped the pressure and the hatch opened. As he moved toward the hatch he was slowed down by a fuel tank dipstick that rolled across the opening. While pushing it clear, he rolled onto his back and was getting ready to roll out when the fuselage broke with a horrifying roar and he was propelled into space face to face with E.A. Melberg. Fragments of the plane were falling all around when his chute opened. The tail section passed by only a few yards away in a slow counter-clockwise spin. To further complicate things, two turret doors seemed to be chasing him as they floated convex side down. One of the doors flipped over and shot past him while the other continued to oscillate around him until it finally struck his shroud lines just below the canopy. This interrupted the rhythm of the door's movement causing it to turn on its side, and it slipped away. After barely missing some power lines and being drug on the ground by gusty winds, and an encounter with a couple of angry dogs as he approached a nearby house, he met a man who then drove him closer to the crash site where he found Ellis E. Maxon and Melberg, who had a fractured leg, and he then drove them to a doctor in Perkins, Oklahoma. About an hour later Dick Thrasher would join them. They were the only survivors. They were then taken to the hospital at Tinker AFB. A few days later they were to learn about another accident involving a B-36. Twenty-three were killed when the plane was attempting a landing at Albuquerque, New Mexico.
The next incident in which Blair was involved also occurred at Albuquerque. He was the crew chief on the plane sent to New Mexico to replace the one that had crashed there recently. The "two week" TDY stretched from May to October and ended up with a belly landing. Les Brockwell was the aircraft commander, and after completing a mission was preparing to land. The nose gear came down, but the main gear remained locked in the up position. All emergency procedures to lower the gear failed. Marv Beckman had crawled into the wheel well in an effort to operate the ratchet mechanism to lower the gear manually. When the lobe of the cable drum sheared off it was decided to make a belly landing. After the non-essential crewmembers bailed out, Brockwell, Beckman and Russ Stokum the flight engineer rode it down for an exceptional landing on only the nose gear. The plane was barely damaged. It was jacked up, the wheel lowered and kept on jacks while Convair Tech Reps and military inspectors checked the damage. When the investigation was completed, the six propellers were replaced, some sheet metal patchwork was accomplished in the aft bomb bay area, and the plane was flown to the Depot at Kelly Field for further repair. Blair and his crew packed up and returned to Carswell to get another plane.
On 5 March 1952, Fred Bachmann took off in Blair's plane on a routine training mission at 8 P.M. Blair went home for some rest; then at 5 A.M. he received a phone call that the mission had been aborted and the plane would be returning early. He went to the flight line and was warming up the B-10 power unit when Bachmann started his approach to the runway. He was hooking the power unit to a tug when he heard the familiar screech of the tires as the wheels touched down, when out of the corner of his eye he saw a streak of fire chasing the plane down the runway. When it came to a stop the plane was soon engulfed in flames. Bachmann suffered a sprained ankle and there were a few scratches, but other than that all of the crew managed to get out safely. The cause of this accident was determined to be a faulty weld on the main landing gear pivot shaft which broke on touchdown allowing fuel to spill which resulted in the fire. Two of the survivors were Marv Beckman who was the pilot on board for the belly landing, and Paul Gerhart who had done so much heroic rescue work after bailing out over British Columbia in 1950.
At this point Blair felt that he was "snake bit" and he started to look for another assignment. When he was offered a job in Quality Control, he accepted it and spent the last eleven years of his active duty in that field participating in several accident investigations, but never as the center of attraction.
Early in his career at Carswell he served as an assistant crew Chief to Robert Murray on #066 a plane that had been dubbed "Queen of the B-36's" Prior to its departure for modification in San Diego this plane topped all other B-models with 750 total lying hours. Others on the maintenance crew credited with this fine performance were Harold Duffer, Arturo Espindola, Harold McCarty, Richard Heppler, and William Cady. In May of 1950 this plane had been designated as the first to be fitted with the rack to carry two "Engine Carrying Nacelles" on a mission. This feat was successfully accomplished on a flight to Fairfield-Suisan AFB, California. A month later she doubled this stunt by carrying four on an over-water mission to Hickam AFB, Hawaii.
In addition to the two crashes already mentioned, Paul Gerhart was personally involved in an in-flight emergency situation while making a trip through the pressurized tunnel while at altitude. The big engines on this plane were notorious for leaking oil while in the air as well as on the ground. In the cold upper air this oil would freeze on the nacelles and chunks would break off. As luck would have it, a chunk broke off and the propeller caught it and flung it through the fuselage, piercing the tunnel as Gerhart was making his way through. The tunnel lost its pressure, and both exit doors were held tightly shut by the cabins still being pressurized. A few moments passed before the crew realized that Gerhart had not reached his destination. Then a few more moments for the necessary action to dump the cabin pressure. Gerhart had passed out from lack of oxygen and it was necessary to manually crank the cart to the forward cabin where he was immediately placed on 100 percent oxygen and soon recovered consciousness.
Gerhart was involved in an incident that got the intelligence people and photo interpreters quite exited. Whenever a large shape was dropped in the ocean, the radar operator would scan the water below for any ships, then show that the plane was in its proper position by a range and bearing fix on a shoreline. Then he would position the radar antenna to obtain a reflection from the shape to show that it had been released properly. Radarscope photography was taken of all these actions. The shape made a nice large return on the scope as it left the plane. On one of these sorties across the Atlantic it became necessary to remove the small metal relief bucket from the cabin and place it in the bomb bay. Somehow the bucket ended up on the bay doors and fell out with the shape. The radar reflection from the bucket was similar to that of the shape, and this caused much confusion since the plane was only supposed to be carrying one shape. It is not known just when the full explanation was made known.
An explosive decompression can create a serious situation under any circumstance. Perhaps the most serious to take place during this era happened during a mass flight to the West Coast. Aircraft commander Ed Easley was flying at 28,000' over southern Arizona when the weakened oval nose window blew out. Freeman Horner, the bombardier, was at his station and was blown out of the plane. Horner was wearing his parachute, but it did not open. An immediate inspection of all the aircraft revealed several more windowpanes to be defective, and the necessary corrective action was taken.
NAVY LEARNS A LESSON
From its very beginning, the B-36 was the subject of controversy among military planners in Washington. The basic theory of the effectiveness of strategic airpower was the focal point of the matter. In late summer of 1948 General Vandenburg took General LeMay from the Berlin Airlift and gave him command of SAC. He in turn ordered training missions that would push the crews and planes to the limit in order to evaluate their capabilities. At the height of the controversy, President Truman called for a conference of the Joint Chiefs and service leaders in Key West to settle the differences. The Navy suffered a setback when an agreement was reached that the Air Force would be responsible for strategic offense and defense. John Bartlett again played an important role in presenting the case for the B-36 in briefings all the way up the chain of command to the Pentagon.
Another man who played an important in the controversy was Wesley D. Morris. Morris had been in the program from the start and had flown with crews from the factory as their navigator-bombardier. He had also been the radar operator on the flight to Pearl Harbor in 1948. By mid 1952 he had served on the staff at 7th Bomb Wing HQ and at 19th Air Division. About this time the Atomic Energy Commission was in desperate need of drop testing a new type bomb still in the development stage. Dr. Plank, Chief of AEC Weapons Effects, arrived at the 19th AD looking for help. Mike Galer and Morris were assigned to work with the Doctor. After a few hours of discussion the enthusiastic doctor started outlining plans that neither Morris nor Galer could possibly authorize. That would have to come from Washington or SAC Headquarters. The doctor was not convinced, and a few days later Morris was ordered to AEC Headquarters to explain the Air Force role in the doctor's reorganization plans. It was obvious that the planning staff was heavily loaded in favor of the Navy. Several Navy Captains made it quite clear that they did not like the Air Force or the B-36. Morris was accused of lying to Dr. Plank by fabricating the capabilities of the B-36. Much damage had been done before Morris had a chance to talk with the Air Force people there, or the high level staff. He was thanked for his efforts and told that plans would be made to get backing from Washington for the project that was now known as project "IVY". When he returned to Carswell he was told to start thinking about a selection process to pick three crews since SAC had issued commitment orders for three aircraft for the project, and it was further designated as "Texan".
A crew from the 9th BS was picked, and Morris gives them full credit for turning this seemingly Navy joke into well deserved embarrassment that stopped the harassment and increased respect for SAC and the B-36. Morris gave briefings on the success the crews were having in making good the impact times over various RBS scoring units. The Navy's attitude was that bombing RBS was one thing, but dropping a bomb over water was an altogether different situation. Morris tried to explain that a reflector target over water would offer no problem, but should make it easier. He soon began to realize what they were up to when they started to question the ability to drop accurately over strictly open water. It was apparent to Morris that the Navy was not aware of the offset bombing capability of the system, and he started to call their bluff. He said that timing the impact was no problem since the "Time of Fall" would be taken from the bombing tables. The problem would be in determining the accuracy, so why make a drop if you cannot determine the impact. The Navy then suggested a point in the Gulf that would be scored by a pre-positioned naval vessel. Morris countered with the observation that the ship could not be positioned with the accuracy for pinpoint scoring. The adamant response was that the U.S. Navy could position its ship within a three foot accuracy out there in the Gulf and could score the impact with their range finding equipment. After a further understanding about aiming point selection and vessel positioning, an agreement was reached. Morris picked a point 273 miles out in the Gulf after locating an unrecoverable depth. Picking an even set of geographic coordinates he suggested the ship be positioned exactly two miles south on the same longitudinal line, and that an Air Force Officer be aboard to support any air to ship communication problems.
On the day of the mission an inert shape was loaded and the crew given an impact time of 11:00 A.M. Morris and the crew arrived over the area about forty minutes prior to the scheduled impact time. On three occasions they requested a time hack and confirmation of the ships coordinates. Those on the vessel thought that the crew was just killing time when in reality they were refining the timing orbits using the ship as a perfect offset aiming point. On the drop run, the crew was within one second of the timing goal. Morris checked the crosshairs in the optics and found them glued onto the bridge of the ship at the twenty seconds to go point. His recommendation to the crew was "Don't even think of touching it".
The ship scored the bomb impact at 270 feet and within one half second of the 11:00 A.M. impact time. However, the stunned Captain refused to relay the score claiming that it was classified, and the crew was unable to send an immediate strike report to SAC Headquarters.
The Air Force Officer aboard the vessel had this story to tell after returning to Key West. He said the trip out had been filled with Navy ridicule of the B-36, the Air Force, and the absurdity of the claim. The Captain informed the crew over the PA system of the purpose of the mission, and was in the process of counting down the last ten seconds. The bomb hit as he reached zero. The Officer operating the range finding equipment came out with a classic remark to the Captain. Quote: "How in Hell do they do that? That's closer than the length of this ship!"
FRANCS, CLIPPERS & CAMELS
Ed Barrett was one of the first pilots to get checked out while in the 7th BW. He later flew in the 11th BW and when the B-36 made its first appearance in the SAC Bombing Competition he was second to take off behind Wes Pendergraft. Barrett was in the 42nd BS at the time. Then on May 24, 1950, four B-36s made their first landing outside the continental U.S. at Ramey AFB, Puerto Rico. General Irvine was in the lead plane. Wes Pendergraft, George Cameron, A.H. Pritchard, and Ed Barrett were pilots for the flight.
His crew was one of several that spent time in North Africa. One of the problems encountered by the crews had nothing to do with flying, but involved money. First, U.S. coins and bills were worthless at the Nouasseur Post Exchange; they had to be converted into scrip. Then the military scrip and cash were both worthless at the Officer's Mess where special chits were required for all purchases. Then on going into town, all three were worthless; francs had to bought at a rate of 345 to 1. And in town transactions could also become tricky. A dinner check at a hotel came to 1,000 francs. A $5 bill had just been changed into 1,700 francs, but the Carswell visitor did not want to be left with only a few francs for the rest of the evening; therefore he put a $10 bill on the tray. The waiter disappeared, then returned and indignantly announced that $10 was not enough, to add $1 more. But then he happily accepted 1,100 francs of the 1,700 that had been purchased for $5.
The street urchins, of which there were swarms, were appropriately called "Clippers" and they would work in pairs. While one would make an attention grabbing sales talk, the other would slip his hand into your pocket. The shoe shine boys would make their own acid impregnated polish from discarded dry cell batteries. Clever, but not conducive to long leather life.
These 11th BW crews were in a benevolent mood when, for the princely sum of $50, they purchased a fine young Camel and planned to bring it back for the ultimate benefit of the Fort Worth Zoo. This donation was to take place after a ride through the Club. Somehow the State Department got involved and these plans had to be dropped.
George Morauske was the aircraft commander on the first and only B-36 to land on the European continent. The year was 1955, and the purpose was to participate in the first International Air Show. The runway at Cointrin Airport, Geneva, Switzerland was relatively small and measured only 164' x 6,600'.
Prior to landing, an F-84 pilot was having a communication problem with the tower, and Morauske ended up flying a close formation over Geneva with him. Russian observers on the ground assumed that the F-84 had been launched from the B-36 bomb bay. A short field landing was accomplished using only 3,400 feet of the runway. The static display was to be located on a compass rose and the taxi strip to it was about 300 yards long, but only 6 inches wider the distance between the main gear wheels. The only way to get it parked was to taxi in reverse, and this is where the scanners were worth their weight in gold according to Morauske. With their guidance this maneuver was completed successfully. There was some excitement however when the props were used to stop the aircraft. The blast blew down the snow fence behind which many spectators had gathered.
Without a doubt, the big bird stole the show. One guest who was shown a special consideration was the First Lady of France. She was the first female pilot to break the sound barrier. While sitting in the pilot's seat she tried moving the controls and then asked what the B-36 pilots ate to be strong enough to fly this big plane. Morauske answered, "Wheaties".
A Russian General and his staff requested the same privilege, hoping for a chance to inspect the would-be launching mechanism for the F-84. Since the Russians had not brought any aircraft to the show, Morauske thought his reply appropriate: "Had you brought some of your aircraft for me to see, I would gladly approve your request".
Hundreds of light aircraft had been parked nearby and along the runway, so Morauske delayed his departure for a day. Several thousand people showed up, and three airliners delayed their departure and allowed the passengers to disembark so as to watch the take-off. Because of the narrow taxiway and limited run up areas, he chose to make a max performance take-off and was airborne after a measured 1,800'. After a low pass over the city he made a very low high speed pass over the airfield pulling up at a pitch of 70 degrees to 6,000' within the boundary of the field. The loose hay was picked up by the propwash and created quite a haystorm. The 11th BW commander, Howard Moore was on this flight and Johnny Crisp was the pilot.
Paul Paskvan participated in several special test flights while in the 11th BW. One of the most outstanding was called Project 48. While flying to evaluate a different blend of fuel, the crew logged 38:45 hours with twelve hours being flown on instruments. During this flight which covered 8,000 miles, they passed over every state in the continental U.S., Touched Canada and Mexico, the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and the Gulf of Mexico. The national capital in Washington and the state capital at Austin, Texas were also included in the itinerary. Takeoff weight was 370,000 pounds with 30,000 gallons of fuel. The mission profile was that of the normal USCM to include altitudes and penetrations.
There is an old Air Force adage that "the plane will serve you only if you service it well". Perfect ground and flight crew cooperation is imperative in the proper maintenance of an aircraft, and D Model #2661 had the ideal arrangement. With the ground crew supervised by John DeJarnette, and Paskvan the aircraft commander, this ship achieved the remarkable flight time of 1,000 hours of trouble free performance in May 1952. Only two sets of engines were used during this period, and the last set had in excess of 575 hours time. Newby Tyson and Paul Chulick were the flight engineers on the crew.
A 9th BS airplane #073 was the first to complete 1,000 hours flying time fully equipped for simulated combat missions. This was the last of the B models on Carswell at the time. Harry Patrick was the aircraft commander when the plane landed in late May 1951. General Irvine, the 19th AD CG and Colonel John Roberts, 7th BW CO were on hand to greet the crew and extend their personal congratulations to the crew chief, Charles B. Martin, Line Chief William R. Armstrong, and Flight Chief Edward Eisenzimmer. Other members of the ground maintenance crew were Eugene Strange, William Craig, Alva Carter, Irvine Hundt, Richard Gonyer, and Joseph McCully.
Paskvan was on a flight with C.F."Bill" Horton that ended with an emergency landing. After taking off, the scanners reported that one of the tires on the left gear was spinning counter to the other, scraping them together. The position arm pin on the gear had broken allowing the wheels to hang down. Upon landing the tires would likely rub together and blow out, allowing the strut to dig into the runway. A decision was made to bail out most of the crew members and land back at Carswell. After dropping eight sand filled bombs into Lake Worth, and pumping some 15,000 gallons of fuel, Horton, Paskvan, and flight engineer Ernie Benefield made a successful landing on a rain slick runway that undoubtedly kept the tires from burning up. This took place before the practice of spreading foam on the runways for emergencies became a standard procedure. Newby Tyson was one of the sixteen who made a successful bail out.
MAINTENANCE MADE IT POSSIBLE
In 1951 the 26th BS broke several records for logging flying time and Tom Rogers who was the CO at the time credits this to the outstanding job performed by the maintenance crews. Ship #064 logged the highest number of hours with more than 119 in the air. E. Herpka was the crew chief, and Jake Kinsfather was the line chief. The post flight dock under the supervision of W.D. Bodine handled thirty-one post flight inspections.
The post flight dock concept was conceived by the office of the Director for Materiel for the 11th BW and the 26th was selected to put it into effect. The idea was soon adopted throughout the 19th AD, and subsequently copied SAC wide. M/Sgt. Ramsey, an assistant flight chief was a key player in testing this plan, and was also the first trained operator to use the Sperry Engine Analyzer in the squadron that came in late 1951. This instrument which was later installed in the D model aircraft was extremely helpful in analyzing rough running engines.
In the summer of 1951 Charles Wunderlick's crew in the 26th BS was on a training mission to the range at Eglin to test an outdated bomb on a water target. Because of past mechanical problems the crew was briefed to open the bomb bay doors at the Initial Point. Then an unexpected thing happened. The bomb dropped and there was a 5,000-pound explosive airburst over a non-designated target area. This attracted a lot of attention according to Rogers, and General Archie Olds sent a special team to investigate the incident. Vic McKinney, who was the radar operator, claimed that the bombing equipment was still in the navigation mode and he had no explanation for the accidental release. With many careers on the line a dogged investigation was ordered by the Director of Materiel, William Calhoun. Eventually a corroded D-2 switch, a hand held bomb release switch was found to be in the closed position. Equipment malfunction was the finding of the board - a wonderful phrase for all those concerned.
In January 1952, Jim Connor and crew were heading for Boscombe Down near Salisbury, England. The area was covered by a snowstorm and there was no radar or other sophisticated approach system with landing lights. The spire on the Salisbury Cathedral had just been rebuilt and aircraft warning lights installed. After orbiting this light for some time, Connor saw what he thought were approach lights for the field, and he set up a descent. Unfortunately, these were not approach lights, but were lights on one side of a funnel lighting system. The theory was that if a pilot picked up one of these strings of lights and flew on the inside, he would soon pick up the other line, and this would guide him to the end of the runway. The landing appeared to be routine until touchdown when they went through a ditch, across a road, and through another ditch scattering haystacks as they rolled along. Art Fisher was one of the scanners, and remained at his station in order to shine a lamp on the number four propeller so that people would not walk into it. This engine had been kept running so that electrical power would still be available on the plane. People were milling around in the dark, and could easily walk into the spinning blades. The story is that an Englishman came up to the crew. He welcomed them to England and pointing off into the distance told them that the airport was about a quarter of a mile straight ahead. Then with typical English dignity he tipped his hat and strolled away. The aircraft was towed to the ramp, washed down and flown back to Ft. Worth by Walter Chambers.
Ben Raia claims to be the first B-36 crewmember to cross the equator. It took place when Jim Sealy's crew was picked to take a plane to Montevideo, Uruguay on 26 February 11955. A new president was taking office and the B-36 was invited to be part of the big ceremony. After leaving land at the southwestern tip of Mexico, their position reports were not being received for some unknown reason and Air Sea Rescue was almost alerted to initiate a search.
As the plane neared the equator, Ben crawled as far forward in the nose as he could get so that he could claim to be the first B-36 crewmember to fly into the Southern Hemisphere. He then proceeded to shake up the folks on the upper deck by breaking out noisemakers and New Years Eve type hats to celebrate the event.
The crew was quartered in a fine hotel and told that they could have their meals in their rooms. They avoided the expensive items on the menu until the escort asked why they were being so frugal when the Uruguayans were picking up the bill. From then on it was steak and wine.
Reluctantly they prepared to leave. Refueling the big bird took much time with the old equipment on the field, and the crew thought that they might have used up the entire supply of aviation fuel. The asphalt taxiway sank under the weight of the heavy plane. The day was hot and there were palm trees off the end of the runway, all of which made for an interesting take-off. Sealy thinks they may have bent the control column with all the pressure it took. Once airborne they were spotted by the control tower in Buenos Aires, and were invited to make a low flyover there-in another country. Two were made with the prop pitch set to make the loudest roar. The trip home was uneventful and was done as quickly as possible. It seems that Ben had purchased a 22-pound block of Uruguayan cheese that did nothing for the atmosphere in the cabin.
Carswell swept the Bombing Competition in 1954 with crews from the 11th taking first and third place, and a crew from the 7th placing second. Jim Sealy's crew with Ben Raia took third. First place honors went to John McKinnon's crew with George Knobel as radar operator, and John Farrell as navigator, From the 492nd Bomb Sqdn in second place was Truxton Whitney's crew with Hunter Harrell working the radar and Al Leferink navigating.
During an early morning squadron briefing, the Operations Officer R.V. Green read a letter that he had received from Supply. It stated that Tom Arnone had signed out for 56 URC4 radios, and Supply was anxious to get the equipment back or their value in cash. At $250 each that came to more than a month's pay and it cracked up all of those troops in the room except Green, Arnone, and his aircraft commander Fred Bachmann. The crew had made three Atlantic crossings and Arnone had been the one designated to draw out this equipment, and after turning the items in at NAD he discarded the receipts. His radar operator suggested that if he did not have the radios in the trunk of his sports car he might sell the car to pay for the things. Thanks to an understanding Supply Sergeant who did not have any shortages after all, the matter was settled. Arnone claims that the embarrassment caused to his aircraft commander was reflected on his next efficiency report.
Flying Safety meetings were held monthly. Harry Dice managed to make them interesting with many kinds of programs. Prominent guest speakers included Captain Eddie Rickenbacker, the World War I Ace, Jimmy Stewart the actor who was also an AF Brigadier General, Major Alexander P. de Seversky, a noted world airpower authority and Bernt Balchen, the first man to pilot a plane across the South Pole.
Balchen piloted Admiral Byrd's airship on the 1927 transatlantic flight, and the following year he piloted the first airplane over the South Pole as Byrd's chief pilot. He was also the chief pilot for the Ellsworth Antarctic expedition in 1933-35. The programs were always different and original. One program featured the original Dr. I.Q. the "Mental Banker" from radio fame, who conducted a quiz program using questions about flying safety. Sixty silver dollars were given away for the correct answers to these questions, and two tickets to the Base Theater were given as consolation prizes. Part of this program was an original skit during which a jet fighter made an attack on a B-36. George "Hap" Arnold was the fighter pilot and his smoking jet plane was a tricycle shooting "CO2" out the back. This program was opened with the Base Military Band playing for fifteen minutes.
Another novel program was a minstrel show complete with black faces, gaudy costumes and spiced with jokes and songs about flying safety. In May the program featured Theater 36, a little theater group on the Base. Eight dancing girls participated in this show.
Dice met Jimmy Stewart when he came to Carswell for the filming of the movie "Strategic Air Command". He asked Stewart if he would speak at a flying safety meeting and he consented to do so. Stewart, who had started to fly before World War II served as a Group Commander with the Eighth Air Force and flew lead aircraft on 19 missions over enemy targets.
Winning the Base-Of-The-Month Award twice during the Strategic Air Command's Flying Safety Year is a signal honor achieved by only two bases-Barksdale and Carswell AFB.
Many celebrities from the entertainment field paid a visit to Carswell. Foremost among these was the troupe brought by Bob Hope on 9 January 1951. After taking a ride in a B-36, Hope put on two performances for the troops. He recorded his regular radio show before several hundred on the base, and the same evening an estimated 1,000 from Carswell jammed into the Will Rogers Coliseum for a 90 minute show by Hope, Marilyn Maxwell, Jerry Colonna and Les Brown and his orchestra. Horace Heidt and his Musical Knights were on tour and paid a visit to the flight line.
During the filming of "Strategic Air Command" Jimmy Stewart and June Allyson were frequently seen on the base.
Arthur Godfrey was taken on a short mission by R.V. "Bob" Green's crew. On the Midland Bombing Range he released a practice bomb - under supervision - and was allowed to make the landing. Godfrey was well qualified as a pilot and was a strong advocate of air power. During this flight he was making a position report when a voice came over the air asking, "Arthur, is that really you?" He replied "Yes, Hoyt, is that you?" This was General Hoyt Vandenberg, the Air Force Chief of Staff.
General Jimmy Doolittle was also given an indoctrination flight with Larry Clayton's crew. Charles Clawson recalls that the crew felt particularly honored to be selected to take this noted flyer aloft. With a minimum load of fuel they taxied out to the north end of the runway, lined up and set the brakes. He was in the left scanner window and as the engines were run up he could see the oleo struts start to extend, and black tire marks were left on the runway as the wheels skidded. The plane was airborne before reaching the diagonal runway leading to Convair. After leveling off at 40,000' they cruised for about five minutes, and then a voice came over the interphone saying, "O.K., Take her down!" They landed, taxied in and unloaded in what Clawson described as the best flight he ever had in a B-36. It was probably also the shortest
VIP's from Washington would come in for an indoctrination flight. Probably the best publicized was the visit by Stuart Symington, the Secretary of the Air Force, Georgia's Senator Richard Russell, who was Chairman of the Senate Armed Forces Committee, Senator Lyndon B. Johnson, and Representative Thornberry, both of these latter men from Texas. General LeMay was also present but did not go on the flight. John Bartlett was the pilot and General Roger Ramey, 8th AF CG helped escort the group and answer questions. The plane was packed with this group and many of their aides who were anxious to take part in the flight. The flight crew was busy trying to get everyone fitted with a chute. About the time the plane got airborne it was discovered that there were not enough chutes for everyone. General Ramey was taken aside and advised of the situation. His remark was not to worry, "If anything happens to this plane with this list of passengers, I don't want to leave it."
During the extended periods of TDY, the 19th AD provided a room in headquarters that was manned by the wives of the personnel overseas. It provided a central point of communication between the families at home and the men overseas. Problems of family members were often resolved quickly through this room. The wives are to be commended for operating this important post.
In February 1953, the 7th BW mounted a large scale mission to England. The first leg was to deploy to Goose Bay, then fly a profile mission to terminate at Fairford. Favorable tailwinds put the bomber stream over the destination about three hours ahead of schedule. Because the mission requirement was to accomplish air miles rather than ground miles, the crews were directed to fly a triangular pattern over Britain until achieving the necessary miles. In the meantime, the weather, which had been clear on arrival, began to deteriorate and it was necessary to make GCA landings. This was the situation when several of the planes missed their approach and were sent back to the top of the stack. Averaging fifteen minutes per landing, it does not take a math major to realize that getting eighteen airplanes on the ground is going to take several hours, and fuel was beginning to run low. After further delay and much pleading by the crews, permission was finally obtained to divert some of the aircraft to another base. Permission came a bit too late for Herman Gerick's crew, and all aboard made a successful exit.
The plane flew about thirty miles before crashing in a farming area. Gordon Brown was a young boy living near the crash site. He went to it and saw some of the crew that had bailed out. The memory of the plane lingered with him for many years and it was his desire to see a whole plane up close that prompted him to write to the 7th BW Public Affairs Office asking if there was a possibility. They informed him of the plane that was in the Ft. Worth Air Museum and put him in touch with the Association. During the Christmas holidays, he made the trip to Ft. Worth. Ed Calvert, the curator of the museum, opened the B-36 and let him sit in what was left of the cockpit at that time. Then to top off his visit he had the opportunity to spend a few hours talking with Bill Minelli who was one of the crew members that had bailed out near his farm.
Gerick was involved in another crash ten months after the episode in England. While groping for a landing in what was described as howling winds and a raging snowstorm, the plane flew into the west side of Franklin Mountain killing all nine aboard.
The return of the 7th BW to the States was further marred by a crash at Goose Bay that claimed two lives. Cliff Schoeffler was being given directions for an instrument landing by a ground control operator who was actually monitoring another plane. Colonel Chadwell, the Wing Commander, was onboard at the time. When the plane hit the ground the aft section broke off and the open end acted like a giant scoop packing in the snow. Headlines in the Ft. Worth papers declared that three men had died, but only two bodies had been recovered. Carroll Butin was missing. An official telegram was sent to the family declaring him dead, but the medical officer at the scene would not sign a death certificate, and the search continued. Carswell Medic, Audie McDowell was probing the snow pack with a broom handle when he heard a grunt. It was Butin, tangled in the control cables with a beam across his lap that kept him pinned down. He was buried beneath three feet of snow. He had survived thirty-six hours in his cocoon of snow and ice, unable to free himself and passing out frequently from the exertion of trying to dig his way out. He suffered a broken right wrist and right ankle.
September 1, 1952 is a date imprinted indelibly in the minds of those Carswellites by a vicious tornado that descended on the base causing damage estimated at $50 million. Every aircraft on the Base suffered some damage. The giant planes were lifted like toys and hurled into each other. Buildings were reduced to piles of rubble, and maintenance stands became piles of twisted metal. One plane was picked up and carried off the south end of the field and dropped into a ravine. It was a total loss. The ramp was a running lake of water and gasoline as fuel tanks were ruptured. The Fire Chief fully expected a catastrophic fire, and was truly a miracle that no lives were lost.
A C-47 pilot who had been trying to take off before the storm hit the base found himself airborne on the taxiway. He managed to get back on the ground and back to relative safety before the brunt of the storm descended. A visiting P-51 was blown into the base of the control tower. One B-36 was picked up, turned 90 degrees and the wing dropped between the 9th BS hangar and the 436th Operations building. A small section of the wing tip was damaged, as was the tip of the building. Special dollies had to be brought over from Convair to work the plane out from between the two structures without further damage.
J.B. Morris had a rather harrowing experience in October 1954. On take-off from Loring AFB, Maine with a 300' ceiling and half mile visibility the right aileron push/pull rod broke jamming the aileron so that it could not be moved. As the aircraft left the ground it began a rapid roll to the left. Power was reduced on the right side and with the help of the co-pilot, Richard George, they were able to level off the wings. Weather conditions throughout the northeast were such that there were no emergency fields open. The flight engineer, Ed Kieschnick, transferred 35,800 pounds of fuel to help in the control of the plane. Weather cleared by the time they reached Columbus, Ohio and a perfect landing was made at Lockbourne AFB. Morris became a member of the select "Heads Up Flying Club", and was given a commendation by General Archie Olds, the Director of Operations for SAC.
During the atomic testing period in the Pacific, George Savage took his crew and plane there to be more or less a guinea pig. They would be flying the EFFECTS plane, to test the effects of the blast on the plane as if it had actually made a drop. Unfortunately the yield was 17 megaton, almost double the anticipated amount. The canoe doors on the wheel well were caved in, as was the radome. All of the inspection plates were torn off. Anything not painted white was scorched. The horizontal stabilizer was warped. All of the blisters had been fitted with special covers, but one had not been installed properly, and the rubber head guard on the blister started to flame up.
After returning to Carswell, the plane was checked with a Geiger counter and was found to be too radioactive for any maintenance. It was parked in a remote area near Convair for a year when it was checked again. The ship had cooled enough but was found to be structurally unsound. Engineers found that almost every rivet would have to be replaced. The plane was scrapped.
Charley Stiff and Denzel Clark were pulling scanner duty on Savage's crew and happened to be on a bomb run when it came time for an hourly engine report. Since this was considered a distraction by the folks up front at such a time, they were told in no uncertain terms to stay off the interphone unless it was an emergency. Some time later they were in their blisters again when they heard the pilot report to Bomb Plot that they were departing the I.P. for a run on Denver. Clark yelled across to Stiff that that was not Denver up ahead, but was Colorado Springs, and he wondered whether they should tell the aircraft commander. Stiff said that since it was not an emergency they had better stay off the interphone. Shortly, Bomb Plot called the crew and advised that they might be having radar problems because they could not pick up the plane on their scope. The folks up front lucked out on this one.
B-36 crews suffered many jibes from fighter pilots who referred to the big planes as "Slow Joes" mainly because they had never seen them in any mode other than a max cruise condition. They had never seen what the plane could do at high altitude with all the power turned on, mainly because at that point in time the fighters were unable to reach that altitude and still perform. Savage was flying over New Mexico getting fighter attacks from a group of F-86's whose pilot's were ignoring a ban that had been placed on "belly-up" passes after the mid-air collision near Oklahoma City. When he reminded the fighter leader of the restriction on this type of pass, the leader replied, "What are you going to do? Tell your mother." Savage replied, "No, I'll walk off and leave you." This evoked a chorus of laughs from the fighter jockeys. Savage then had Bob LeMay crank up the jets and the engineer, Earl Wilder, took the recips out of manual lean and spark advance and told them that when he said "Go", to apply full power. It wasn't long before another restricted pass was made. At the word "Go" the power came up, and so did the nose-about 60 degrees. The bomber crew had the last laugh watching the fighters trying to catch up. They never did.
IT'S A GIRL
Radar Bomb Scoring was a way of life that was usually done in a business like manner. In 1956 while on a run on Oklahoma City, the Bomb Plot called the crew and asked if there was a Fred Wendt onboard. Upon confirmation, Bomb Plot advised, "Tell him he is the father of a baby girl, and mother and daughter are doing fine. On your next run, drop cigars."
Logging over 5,000 hours flying time in the B-36 was an accomplishment achieved by only a small number of people. It is interesting to note that the majority of those who reached this level were flight engineers. In 1956 Newby Tyson and Roy Smith were honored with a special award, a Globe and World Atlas. In 1958 Cliff Schoeffler received the award, and in 1959 Leland Neville, W.R. McCool, and C.W. Bigham were presented the awards as the last flight into Ft. Worth arrived at Amon Carter Field. Neville and Clyde Youngblood, who was the first Air Force flight engineer to be checked out in 1948, shared the honors of closing the throttles after the flight from El Paso.
General John D. Ryan was a frequent flyer on the B-36, and would perform crew duties at all positions. John Lonsdale the navigator on Mike McCuskey's crew tells about the time the General flew with them. He decided to make practice runs on the Little Rock RBS Site with a little help from Paul Hill, the radar operator. While attempting a wind run he was having difficulty controlling the crosshairs, and he seemed to be all over the place with the tracking handle. He told Hill that the system was malfunctioning since the wind dials were reading 200 knots in the opposite direction from the forecast. Hill took a quick look, synchronized the crosshairs, and in a rather unmilitary manner said, "For Chrissake's General, when you are using the optics, don't try to synchronize on those little white dots down there. They are autos. Pick on the bigger colored ones, you know, the beer joints. They don't move at no 60 MPH!" The General settled down and made runs with very good scores. Most Generals received good scores from the RBS sites.
General Ryan flew with Tim Lane's crew during the first airborne test of "Station Keeping". This concept of formation flying by using the radar set was a pet project of the General's. At the debriefing, he asked Lane how he thought it would work out. When Lane answered that he was not too enthused with the idea he set himself up for an attitude adjustment.
Glenn Loveall claims to have flown the longest mission that was classified as an abort. The Wing had deployed to North Africa, and one of the first training missions was for the organization to organization to make a penetration of the North American Air Identification Zone (ADIZ) testing the air defense system. Just prior to making the penetration, two spark plugs on the same cylinder quit. Standard procedure at this time was to shut the engine down. When this information was given to the Wing Commander, he ordered the crew to abort the mission and return to North Africa. In spite of all the pleas by the crew to let them proceed to Carswell for the needed repairs, they were told to return to Nouasseur. Glenn's logbook shows some twenty-eight hours flying time for an aborted mission.
Dan Hartley was still in high school when he saw a B-36 for the first time. He was only in the program for a year and a half, but he recalls a lifetime of memories. Every experience was something new and different: like sitting at the end of the runway for three to four hours with the engines running, and watching tornadoes on the radar set. There were regulations that prohibited takeoffs into tornadoes...Hitting a duck on take-off, cracking a nose glass, then putting chaff and water over it to freeze and act as a plug...Losing three engines on one side...Losing a tail cap and not noticing it...Taking off and having the aircraft commander call the scanners to see if they could help find why the controls felt so stiff, then finding that the control locks were still installed...A coffee pot falling on the aircraft commander, scalding him so badly that an emergency landing had to be made...Fog so thick they got lost on the runway...Watching an engine fire on the ship up ahead in a bomber stream, and after an hour seeing it fall off into the sea...Hitting turbulence in a thunderstorm and bouncing off the ceiling before getting strapped in. Perhaps the most unusual remembrance was a flight with no squawks-it was the flight to the boneyard at Davis-Monthan.
Al Daniels recalls a disturbing experience while flying with Ray Sealy. In an early B-model they had been flying at 35,000' for about fifteen hours when two engines started to backfire. Ed Bartlett, the engineer, feathered both and ten thousand feet of altitude was lost. Then another engine ran out of oil and had to be shut down. Bartlett finally managed to restart one that had been shut down because of backfiring, and it ran OK at the lower altitude. Then while attempting an RBS run both the VHF and UHF radios went out. The interphone was still operating, but that was the only good news. Another engine was running out of oil, and the crew was running out of engines. MacDill AFB was less than a hundred miles away and they decided to set down there. On the downwind leg the nose gear failed to come down, and as the ship turned on the final approach a prop governor malfunctioned leaving only numbers 1,5, and 6 turning. When Sealy decided to make a go-around, Daniels had to unfasten his shoulder harness in order to reach the gear switch, and in the process got struck in the eye and received a first class shiner.
Pulling 65" manifold pressure on three engines at 200' altitude must have rattled the windows of Tampa. The main escape hatch door was removed as a precaution should a crash landing occur. When the bombardier, Andy Vero, looked out the hatch and saw water, he stepped back to put on his life vest. Then he looked out again and saw that they were back over land, and the vest came off. Then they went back over water and the vest went on again. By this time the radar operator Hunter Land sat by the hatch and would not let Vero look out any more. The nose gear was finally lowered manually, and with number 1 trailing a huge plume of smoke, Sealy managed to make a perfect landing.
BECAUSE I SAID SO!
Charles Boerschig was navigating for Charles Bolton when a brand new Second Lieutenant, Walt Nickerson, was assigned to the crew as an engineer. Described as being totally immersed in his assignment, he was obsessed with the goal of obtaining more nautical miles per pound of fuel used, than the Flight Engineer's Handbook said could be done. "Nautical miles per flown pound of fuel used" was the standard by which all Flight Engineers were graded. The more miles flown, the higher the grade. Every flight was a challenge to Nickerson. He would use every trick he knew to squeeze more miles out of his fuel than the other engineers did. On one flight they had finished the mission and had entered the traffic pattern at Carswell in preparation for landing, when the aircraft commander called for more power over the interphone. Nickerson responded by asking, "What for?" That was not the answer the A/C expected. "BECAUSE I SAID SO!" roared the A/C, as he took over the throttles and adjusted them the way he wanted. Nickerson was crushed, fearful that the A/C would use more fuel than he would have, adversely affecting his precious "Nautical miles flown per pound of fuel used." After landing there was a private meeting between the two and they never had that problem again.
MEMORY LINGERS ON
Emil Molkentine recalls the time that General LeMay flew with his crew when L.C. Basinger was the aircraft commander. The General was not very impressed and said that they were all so raunchy they were lucky to have survived World War II. Several months later after much blood sweat and tears, the crew was chosen for the Crew of the Month Award. The General normally signed the certificates, but this time when he recognized the crew he refused to sign the papers, and the awards were presented with only the typed name of the General. This is probably one of a few "collector's items" that has any value because it lacks a signature.
Quite often, the B-36 would be called upon to demonstrate how quickly it could get off the ground, especially when loaded with a minimum amount of fuel. On a Sunday afternoon in October 1954 a group of firemen were having a convention in town and were on a tour of the Base. In order for a person to draw his flight pay he was required to fly at least fours a month, and 100 hours each year. Thad Neal's crew was scheduled for a two or three week leave in October, so in order to get in the required flying time this pilot proficiency mission was set up for the crew. I believe it was on a Sunday afternoon.
Before leaving home for the Base that morning, Thad called and told me to have Rin (my wife) standing by with the movie camera. I knew he had visitors and that he wanted them to get a good look at the plane, so I expected that it would be a low flyover but had no idea just how low he planned on making it.
The visiting firemen were on the ramp at the time of our take off so Thad was directed to make a maximum performance takeoff and then come around with the low pass over. With a minimum fuel load the B-36 really got off the ground in a hurry. We taxied onto the runway heading south and set the brakes. Thad called for full power on the six recips and four jet engines. That old bird started to stutter and seemed to skid until the brakes were released. I don't think we used a thousand feet of runway before breaking ground. We leveled off at four thousand and headed to the north end of Eagle Mountain Lake at 4,000' before turning south and heading for the north end of the runway. When over Eagle Mountain Lake the plane turned south. With "six turning and four burning" the plane headed directly for the north end of the runway. In a shallow dive with full power the plane skimmed down the runway at almost no altitude. I don't know how fast we were going but it had to be at least 180 mph. Thad kept right on the deck for the whole length of the runway. I was sitting in the glass nose and had a good view. The operators in the GCA shack along side the runway took a dive for the ground as the plane approached with the props almost ticking the concrete.
Thad had originally planned on flying directly over his house. Between the Base and West Ridglea the ground rises maybe a hundred feet so. Thad could not get a true bead on his house from the low altitude so he flew down the road where Ridgmar Mall sits today. Climbing over the small ridge he soon spotted his house just a wee bit off to the left. Still following the terrain he pushed the nose down a bit again but did not dare to drop the wing in a turn. After crossing he ridge, the land gradually gets lower until it reaches Mary's Creek. We stayed on the deck all the way and then part way down highway 377. Then we climbed back to altitude and my log book show we flew for six hours.
Trinka was in her front yard filming the approach, until frightened, when she dropped the camera. Rin had heard us takeoff so she got our camera and sat on the back porch to wait for the next event. It came so fast and caught her by surprise so that all she could do was step off the porch and shoot between the two houses. She did get a short blip of film as we passed about a block away. She did run out front and got a few feet as we few down the hill to the Creek, then she went in the house and poured herself a stiff drink.
As we flew down the highway I recall seeing cars stop and people head for the ditches. Several years later I was telling this story to some co-workers at General Dynamics and one man told me that he was one of those that had sought shelter in a ditch.
We landed and went home to prepare for our vacation not realizing the furor that was going on in Headquarters. One man had called in demanding that his TV antenna be returned. He claimed that a jet pod had removed it from his roof. One character even claimed that the jet exhaust had set fire to a phone pole. There were claims about cracked plaster and pictures that had fallen from the walls.
There was such a fuss raised that General Jack Ryan the 19thAD CO had to take some action. Early the following morning before we could get away, Thad called and said not to leave. General Ryan wanted to talk with all of us. We met at his office and one by one had to go in to give our version of the whole episode. When it was all over he had to fine Thad. I believe it was for $250.00 and he was taken off the promotion list for a couple of years, but as he left the General's office, General Ryan told Thad that was the best buzz job he had ever heard of. It didn't hurt his career either. He would serve as a Commander at Wichita Falls, and then in the Pentagon before going to Florida. He retired as a Lieutenant Colonel.
Thad was killed in a crash in the early 60's while training in C-123's in Florida. The training was preparing him for duty in Viet Nam, defoliation, I think they called it. In the middle of a low altitude turn he lost an engine and went down.
MYSTERY OVER MICHIGAN
Anyone associated with the B-36, or any of those living in the vicinity of a base that housed the big plane will attest to the unusual rumble and vibration that occurred when one passed over even at 2,500 feet. When a community unfamiliar with this sound has a B-36 circle for about twenty minutes, the effect can be dramatic. Such an event alarmed the citizens of two Michigan cities, Flint and Pontiac.
In September 1954 during the early days of the Cold War, Robert Barouch's crew had deployed to Rapid City, and from there was to conduct a routine training mission back to Carswell. A night navigation leg for Joe De Rienzo was to start in the vicinity of Detroit, Michigan. It was necessary to orbit the area until darkness set in, and it was this action that caused the alarm. Phones in many police departments throughout the county were flooded with calls that a plane was in trouble and about to crash. The Ground Observer Corp said they had no reports of unidentified aircraft, and Air Defense Command at Selfridge Field launched two jet fighters and a rescue plane, but were unable to establish contact. At the time, Air Traffic Control claimed that they did not have a flight plan on file. Officials at Selfridge eventually got word from SAC Headquarters that there was a B-36 in the Detroit area about that time, but that it was proceeding on course to Carswell and not reporting any engine troubles.
Newspaper headlines in the Detroit Free Press the following day read-"Mystery Plane Alarms Suburbs". And the Pontiac Press claimed that a "B-36 On The Prowl Gives County Jitters". A sheriff claimed that his prisoners had the jitters after the walls of the prison trembled when the plane passed overhead. Four of the Ground Observer Posts were manned and the Civil Air Patrol was put on alert. Many questions were raised about the efficiency of the country's defenses when a plane could go undetected in this vital industrial area.
Jay Blaine, who was the radar operator on the crew, had relatives living in the area, and knowing of his part in the B-36 program, sent him clippings from the papers describing the reaction of the local citizens. And as often happens when some reporters prepare their columns, mistakes are made. The Detroit Press placed Carswell AFB in New Mexico.
Because of all the turmoil an investigation was held, however, the findings did not show any wrong doing on the part of the crew. The Brigadier General in charge of Civil Defense for the Detroit area was upset about the failure to detect the plane, and he sent out a plea for more volunteers for the Ground Observer Corp.
It should never be doubted that the B-36 personnel were fully committed to completing the mission, and R.A. Ebert is a prime example of this. It was almost impossible to keep the lower compartment in the front warm. The navigators would be freezing in all their arctic gear while those on the upper deck would be warm in T-shirts. To alleviate this problem small electric heaters were provided. They were portable and could be located where most needed. Ebert had placed one near his feet while making a bomb run. When a slight turbulence caused the unit to start slipping from the small step, he reached down to stop it and accidentally pushed a finger behind the protective screen into a fan severing the end of the finger. He continued on the bomb run after wrapping his injured hand in a handkerchief. The mission continued and was completed as briefed. At debriefing he turned in the tip with all the other paper work.
BETWEEN THE WHEELS
Not many people can be run over by an automobile and live to tell about it. Most would say that if it was by a B-36, there would not be any chance. Thomas Holste is an exception. Holste was an Intelligence Specialist in the 436th BS and had been in the process of updating all of the map cases that were carried on each plane at all times. The crew navigators would normally return the cases to their plane, but Holste decided to take this one out since the plane was parked very close to the office.
The aircraft was being preflighted at the time, and while the crew chief was running the engines up to 1900 RPM, the brakes failed and the plane jumped the chocks. Holste was climbing the nose entrance ladder one hand at a time while carrying the heavy case of maps in the other. The plane lurched as he was reaching for the next step and he fell as the plane started to roll forward. He was able to position himself so that the nosewheels passed on either side of him. He received some abrasions and other minor injuries, but nothing serious. The USAF Aircraft Accident Review magazine of December 1950 carried this story.
Robert Stein was a doctor in the 7th Med group in the early 50's and though his main interest was in aviation medicine, he found time to act as the team physician for the Carswell "Bombers" base football team. The 1950 team had a 7-2 won lost record, losing one game to a team from Keesler AFB and splitting a pair with the Army team from Ft. Bliss.
The 1951 roster was studded with stars from the southwest conference, and was coached by Bobby Dobbs who had played college ball at Tulsa and West Point and played in the Sun and Sugar Bowls. There were two All-American players. Bud McFadin from the University of Texas had been picked as the most valuable player in the college all star game against the Cleveland Browns, and was the holder of the "Knute Rockne" award for the outstanding lineman in the country in 1950. Bud Sherrod Played at Tennessee and won his All-American award for his great defensive playing on the line. Texas Christian University was represented by Max Eubank and Bob Moorman. Baylor had two on the team - Jim Jeffrey, all Southwest Conference fullback, and James Mott. Rice University had two co-captains from their 1950 team, all Southwest Conference center, Lee Longstreet, and quarterback Vernon Glass, and Rex Proctor, who had been All-Conference safety. The team captain was All-Southwest conference Carl Molberg from Texas A&M who served on the coaching staff with Bob Humbert, a wingman from the University of California.
The 1951 ten game schedule included teams from Mississippi Southern, Abilene Christian, North Texas State, McMurry College, Texas A&I and Southeastern Oklahoma State. Home games were played at Farrington Field. Reserved seats cost $1.80, general admission was $1.00 and programs $.25. A special sheet was given out showing all of the cheers.
Stein had to make a trip to the courthouse on official business and while there met Sheriff Sully Montgomery. The Sheriff made Stein a Deputy at the time, and he has a certificate to verify it.
ABOVE AND BEYOND
In February 1950, William Colfax was performing maintenance on one of the powerplants when someone informed him that there was a fire in the wing close to a fuel cell. He quickly disconnected the external power unit, grabbed a fire extinguisher, re-entered the plane and managed to put out the fire, saving the aircraft. Upon hearing of this bravery, General Irvine summoned Colfax to base headquarters and authorized an on-the-spot promotion. He was recommended for the Soldier's Medal and the General pinned it on some time later in an informal presentation on the flight line.
AMON CARTER FIELD
In February 1955, a B-36 from El Paso crashed on the runway at Carswell killing two while practicing landings. Two former Carswell crewmembers, Artis Pritchard and Earl Yaden, were on board as instructors. Because the field was shut down, ten bombers returning to Carswell had to be diverted. Tinker AFB, Oklahoma was the closest military base, but it was decided to land at Amon Carter Field. Jim Ard had driven over to the field to make the arrangements and W.F. "Zeke" Zerdecki was the first to land. "It was enjoyable," he said referring to the cooperation of the tower personnel. The runways were well lighted, and he had no trouble following instructions from the control tower. This was actually the second time that Amon Carter Field had been used. In September of 1954, three planes were diverted there after the runway lights at Carswell had failed.
On 4 August 1952, a bomber stream mission had been delayed because of bad weather. While waiting for the weather to clear, some crewmembers remained at their planes to perform various checks. On one ship fuel was being transferred, and it started to spill overboard. Heavy rains were causing considerable run-off of water and the spilling fuel was carried underneath a ground power unit that ignited the fuel. The flame followed the fuel up into the wing and the plane was destroyed. Seven men were injured, including Richard V. Lee who was a radar mechanic assigned to the plane.
Thomas P. Wilson was the crew chief of the plane parked adjacent to the burning ship. He was standing by his power unit while the radar operator was preflighting his equipment. When Wilson saw the fire, he yelled to the crewmember to shut down and get up on the flight deck to ride the brakes. He quickly hooked up a tug and towed his plane to safety. Two other aircraft parked to the north of the stricken plane were also moved out.
EVEN FASTER ACTION
James D. Johnson remembers this embarrassing moment:
I was assigned to the 436th BS Orderly room as a clerk on the day that William Colfax was to be presented the Soldiers Medal. If my memory is correct, the ceremony was to be on the flight line after the normal duty hours. Regardless, I had drawn the duty of CQ that night which was performed from the orderly room. I had settled down in a comfortable position at my desk, the writing ledge pulled out, leaning back in my chair with feet propped up on the ledge. The Executive Officer (additional duty of one of the flying types) was standing directly in front of the double door of the Quanset Orderly Room. We were having a casual conversation when he abruptly yelled "attention". I heard someone come onto the little porch of the building and into the room. It was General Irvine. I attempted to stand, however, all that happened was my feet went into the air in a fanning motion. The General looked at me, smilled and said "that's okay airman".
Because of the vast distances from the engineering and operations on the flight line to the parked planes considerable time was lost in communicating back and forth. Private vehicles, once permitted on the line, were now prohibited. However, two wheeled vehicles were allowed and the Air Force went as far as to issue two to each squadron for the departments mentioned. Before long, there was a proliferation of bicycles and small motorbikes. By far the most popular was the Servi-Cycle, issued by the government. When long periods of TDY were scheduled, the personnel would load their cycles in a cart that would be loaded in the bomb bay, and thus have "wheels" when getting to their destination. These cycles became a second car to many and would be used to commute to and from home. They were quite handy, but accidents were frequent. One man was injured as he was leaving the front gate. A vehicle had stopped to let out a passenger as the cyclist attempted to pass on the right side. The door opened at a most inopportune time for the rider of the two wheeler.
Another man was heading home after work, and after a short stop at the Club for a short one. As he was attempting to navigate around the traffic circle just outside the base, his gyro "tumbled" resulting in minor abrasions.
One Operations man who felt that the issued cycle was his personal vehicle complained loudly at a briefing that no one was to use the cycle with his permission. An unknown culprit tied one end of a rather long piece of rope to the luggage rack of this cycle, and the other end to the hangar door. The unsuspecting Ops man did not see the rope when he mounted the saddle and started to ride off. Fortunately, he was not going fast when the rope tightened up, but he still dismounted over the handlebars.
The early models required a tremendous amount of maintenance, and in an effort to cut down on the hours the ground crew needed between flights, it was directed that the flight crews would assist in the less technical matters such as uncowling the engines, removing panels, etc. The interior cabins were kept clean and even painted when needed. An Officer from the flight crew was to be present whenever maintenance was being performed on the ship. He was responsible for maintaining a large duty board that listed the names of both the flight crew and the ground crew, and where they could be located if not at the plane. The board also showed what maintenance was being performed, and if a part was on order, the time that the order had been submitted was recorded. The status of the plane and crew was on display at all times.
Most flight crewmembers attended the SAC survival school at Camp Carson, Colorado or Stead AFB, Nevada. Some "lucky" people went to both. The schools were conducted in a worthwhile manner and valuable training was received. SAC headquarters did not want the crews to forget the things they learned and local refresher courses were part of the ground training program. Crews returning from a flight would never know for sure whether the bus bringing them into the hangar after a flight would proceed directly to survival training area at the north end of Eagle Mountain Lake, or the south end of Lake Benbrook and be expected to live for a few days on whatever they had in their bags. Many of the troops learned to be fishermen in a hurry. One faithful wife loaded the family fishing boat with some supplies when she was notified that her husband would be gone for a few days. Knowing where the site was located, she delivered the goods much to the delight of the crew.
The training people at SAC devised a new type of survival training to simulate a crew being down in a remote area or even enemy territory. Before any specific instructions were issued, the order came down to implement the plan, and a crew from the 436th was selected to be the first to participate. They were told to proceed by government vehicle to a set of coordinates that happened to be in the Texas Panhandle a few miles north of the very small town of Memphis. They were to take the normal emergency gear carried on all flights, and maybe some extra underwear.
Besides the in-flight rations, the next most important item to be taken was the old portable, hand-cranked generator used to make radio contact.
The crew was dismayed to find that the designated site was in a cotton field on the flat plains with no shelter or trees for many miles. The old Goodnight-Loving cattle trail ran in this area. Charles Goodnight had his huge ranch headquarters a few miles to the northwest. The crew did not release the bus driver at that time, but set up the radio gear and sent out their distress message. They were advised that a rescue plane would be sent out in four or five days and told to reestablish contact again after a couple of days.
It was a cold day in February, and with no shelter on the high plains of Texas, it was a unanimous decision to seek shelter among the native population. They had noticed a motel on the north side of town as they had passed through and directed the driver to head back to it. A quick check of the financial status was not favorable. Not enough to cover an extended stay there, so they headed on into town. There was a nice small hotel on the corner of the town square. The owner had a son in the Air Force and he was sympathetic with their situation. For a very nominal fee, the crew was given the whole second floor of the hotel. This proved beneficial in still another way. With the use of an adapter, the radio could be used without having to crank the old generator.
The crew was not allowed to explain to the townsfolk what the purpose of this invasion was, but it did stir up a lot of interest when they saw the crew stretch an antenna across the roof of the hotel, and see crew members strolling around the square with walkie-talkies. The actual conversation was really just to inform the crew members back in the hotel what the hours were at the restaurants, and what movies were playing at the two local cinemas. There was also a girl's district basketball tournament in progress, so there was no shortage of entertainment. The local ranchers and farmers were not too busy at this time of year, and they seemed to enjoy visiting with the crew. They invited the crew out to the local gun club to shoot skeet, and took the troops on a tour of the huge cotton gin. The operator of the gin had his own small plane and took the pilots on an aerial tour. The rescue plane was supposed to come from El Paso, so while airborne the AC asked FAA for a weather report covering the route, and it was not a favorable one.
After obtaining a pick up time, the crew needed transportation out to the site, some five miles to the north. The farmers came to the rescue and several pickup trucks helped move all the gear. They even brought firewood, since it was a cold blustery day with a low overcast. After the scheduled pick-up time passed, the generator was set up and contact with the command post established. There would be another two-day delay because of weather. The farmers took the crew back to the hotel, and they were able to take in the finals of the basketball tournament. Again on the day of departure the farmers trucked the crew back to the site. A landing strip was marked out and the C-47 arrived as scheduled for the pick up. There was no way to pay those good men for all their kindness. That is, until one of them showed an interest in the in-flight rations that remained. Very few had been eaten since there were good restaurants in town, so the crew gladly parted with those cartons.
The folks who had dreamed up this exercise were not exactly pleased with the way this first attempt was carried out, and the next Ops order had more specific instructions than what was expected. Also, the sites selected were not quite as barren as the wind swept Caprock.
Thurston Mallard was the Project Officer for Operation Milestone that was to celebrate the last departure for a 7th BW B-36. At the Open House on Base, George Burch's crew from the 492nd BS made a pass across the field in formation with a B-52, and a B-58 that was flown by Mr. B.A. Erickson, the pilot who had taken the B-36 aloft on its maiden flight.
In the early forties, scientists at General Electric were working on a project for the Chemical Warfare Service. Then the Secretary of War asked for research into the problems of precipitation static. The biggest problem was icing, but there was also the problem of the complete loss of radio contact when planes flew through snowstorms. Planes were known to be charged to a potential of 250,000 volts, producing corona discharges from all parts of the plane. In the following years these men became deeply interested in cloud study. Many experiments were conducted that are much too technical for a discussion here. The one that leads into this anecdote dealt with the quantitative work being done on the number of ice crystals produced by dry ice. Extensive seeding flights were made over New Mexico with amazing results. Rainfall was produced over an area of 40,000 square miles. Using the rain reports from 330 stations in a U.S. Weather Bureau publication, it was conservatively estimated that 100,000,000 tons of rainfall was produced. The experiments culminated in "Project Cirrus" and a report was printed by GE.
Dry ice was also used in the B-36 to purge the fuel tanks during flight. A large box was delivered before take off and the blocks of the frozen CO2 were placed in hoppers. There were always blocks left over and they were usually discarded. A copy of the GE report fell into the hands of a crewmember that had farmer friends in South Texas who needed rain badly. His crew was scheduled to go to Matagordo for a gunnery mission and, since the flight would go over the farm, the idea occurred that maybe a few small pieces of dry ice in a likely looking cloud might help the drought. The block of ice was broken into small pieces and dropped out through the chaff dispenser in the aft compartment on a signal from the observer up front. Rain had not been forecast for that area. Later that evening after returning home from the flight the late news on the radio carried a report of violent weather in that portion of the state. A tornado hit the east side of a town and blew down the screen at a drive-in theater. A week end tour of the area revealed much tree damage, and pieces of sheet metal scattered in the fields. Probably just a coincidence.
A couple of weeks later the crew was scheduled for a short four hour pilot proficiency flight in the local area. Since Ft. Worth needed rain and none was forecast for days, it was decided to seed a few of the fair weather cumulus that were present. While climbing to 25,000' a few pieces were dispensed, and nothing more thought about it until preparing to land. There was a solid undercast at about 4.000' and during the descent through it the turbulence was extreme. Rain was falling and water was rising in the neighborhood behind Montgomery Ward, the area that had suffered so badly in the flood of 1949. Fortunately there was no property damage. Needless to say, this terminated any further efforts to fool "Mother Nature".
In 1949, Howard Hughes owned the RKO movie studio and he decided to film a movie featuring the B-36. Hughes was a pilot in his own right, having set speed and distance records, some in planes of his own design. It was rumored that John Wayne would be the star of the film, but apparently he was unavailable and Robert Ryan was given the role. John Bartlett, who by now was the 436th Sqdn. CO, was selected to be the technical advisor. A filming crew arrived and was given an indoctrination of the plane. They were shown home movies made by the squadron personnel and given suggestions as to where they might position their cameras for shooting. Ernest Bachrach the still photographer noted for his glamour photos of movie stars was one of the Hollywood crew. His assignment was to photograph the buildings and structures on the base. The photos were to be sent to the main studio where sets would be built. An Officer from the squadron was to accompany him, to offer suggestions and also keep him out of restricted areas. He was given the use of the base Photo Lab and towards the end of each day he would go there and process the film he had used that day.
RKO photographer Ernest Bachrach filming at Carswell
Filming went well for a while. The main stars of the film did not appear here. Doubles were used and most of the shots were long ones. The movie film was sent to the West Coast for processing, and when returned the crew would go to the base theater to check it out. Bartlett objected to one part of the story. He claimed that it would be laughed out of every theater where military people would be present. The director refused to change it, so the dynamic Bartlett went straight to Hughes.
Hughes agreed and ordered the director to make the suggested changes. He then asked Bartlett whether he liked chocolate milkshakes. He would rather have had a scotch and soda, but knowing the idiosyncrasies of the man, he figured that he should answer that he did. Hughes said that he knew a drug store that made the best chocolate shakes in the world and would treat Bartlett to one. They left the office in a limousine for the airport where Hughes kept his Constellation - a four engine airliner - and Hughes flew it to Las Vegas. They were met by another limousine and taken to a drug store for the milk shake, then returned to Hollywood.
Production on the film was later halted. It was felt that national security might be compromised. Just what disposition was made of the film that was shot is not known. Perhaps some day it will be discovered.
The publishers of Time magazine also made a short feature called "The March of Time" that was released to theaters throughout the country. One such film titled "Flight Plan For Freedom" featured Bill Horton's crew. It was pretty comprehensive and it paid a good tribute to the program.
The producers of the NBC Today show sent a team to fly with a B-36 crew also. This was actually flown by a crew from Westover, and Robert McKaig was the flight engineer on the 29-hour mission. Dave Garroway was the host of the show at the time and the special was in honor of SAC's tenth anniversary.
Joe Bennett, pilot of the
Westover B-36 crew.
There were numerous magazine articles published. General Harry Goldsworthy wrote for the Aerospace Historian and described the plane as being honest even though it wasn't agile. The General was a squadron commander in the 7th when the first B-36 was delivered. He later commanded the 11th Group.
Edward W. "Bill" Van Orman's story in Airpower Magazine titled "One Thousand On Top" is a gunner's view of flight from the scanning blister. Van Orman flew with Les Brockwell's crew and he offers a fairly complete and accurate description of many of the activities that took place during his tour of duty at Carswell.
The December 1950 issue of the Saturday Evening Post had a feature article titled "Are Our Big Bombers Ready To Go?" There were several colored photos, including one taken in the nose, showing Jim Mahaffey.
Argosy magazine ran a large article that contained many pictures of Paul Paskvan's crew. True magazine carried the story of Butin's harrowing experience being trapped in the snow for thirty-six hours. A cover on the Sunday paper supplement Parade pictured Fred Bachmann's crew attired in pressure suits. The crew had been designated to conduct the very high altitude flights in the super featherweighted #1086. Even the New York Times carried complimentary articles about the early A model. The May 1949 magazine issue of the Times has pictures of Carl Waldrip in the left seat, and D.W. Aslin at the engineer's control panel. During its time, the old bird had its share of publicity.
Much has been written about the deterrent role of the B-36, and the fact that it never participated in a war. Frequently overlooked are her many other contributions. There were significant design developments of which probably the most important was the use of alternating current as the primary electrical power system. This was adopted in most of the aircraft to follow. The multi-wheeled landing gear now used widely in commercial as well as military aircraft; using magnesium for secondary structural materials which reduced weight and thus increased the range; metal bond to skin and extra strength aluminum alloys, and titanium; a new gunnery system that used guns larger than the usual .50 caliber; a flexible fire barrier and new CB fire extinguisher now in widespread use; a new aerodynamic boost on the flight controls to provide the pilot with a better feel while in flight; gust locks for the control surfaces. She was the first bomber designed for high altitude flight up to fifty thousand feet - and above, and to use additional jet engines for extra performance. She was the first bomber to use the new "K" bombing system that introduced many features that improved bombing capabilities.
The long range of the B-36 called for more extensive and precise navigation techniques, and she served as a training ground for them. Before getting the B-36, the Strategic Air Command did not have a requirement for extreme long range and high altitude planning. New logistic and maintenance support problems also confronted the SAC planners. The answers would be important later as basic planning factors for the jet bombers. The B-36 insisted on teamwork, and she proved to be a good classroom. It has been said that the only thing to catch up with her was the jet age.
Compiled by SCANNER editors and Frank Kleinwechter