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World's Largest Warbird - will it fly again?

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Old 11-07-09, 08:55 AM   #1
Lil4X
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Cool World's Largest Warbird - will it fly again?

If you never heard of the B-36 bomber, it just proves you weren't around at the beginning of the Cold War. While the Soviet Union determined to base their nuclear delivery systems on as yet, undeveloped missiles, the US, in the post-war reshuffle of power decided not to wait for missile technology and produce a bomber that could deliver a nuclear payload on demand, anywhere in the world.

Thus, the B-36 - the largest piston-engine aircraft ever built in quantity was the solution. From its first flight in 1946 to the phase-in of the B-52 that began in the mid-'50's, this behemoth with six Pratt & Whitney R-4360-53 "Wasp Major" radials, producing 3,800 hp (2,500 kW) each, plus four General Electric J47 turbojets, adding 5,200 lbf (23 kN) of thrust each, was the pride of the Strategic Air Command in its formative years. You may have seen in featured in the movie "Strategic Air Command", a popular 1955 film (and thinly-disguised AF recruiting piece) starring Jimmy Stewart and June Allison.

I received an email from a friend at the Lone Star Flight Museum last night - it seems that there has been an on-again, off-again struggle to get one of these giant warbirds back in the air. The story is both uplifting and sad - but it represents what a group of dedicated volunteers can do when faced with incredible odds . . . and a federal bureaucracy. . .

Click the image to open in full size.

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Once upon a time the last produced B-36 made its last flight to the old GSW airport, located at the southern edge of DFW Intl. and a mile or so to the south. It was built at Carswell AFB which had the Consolidated Factory on the property. It was made into a gate guard, and like many gate guards, promptly went to hell due to lack of maintenance, weather and vandalism. It was donated by the Air Force who in the fine print said they still owned it.

As it became much more of a disgrace a local group of volunteers stood up to save it. Consolidated workers, Retiree's, CAP cadets all pitched in with the goal to make it fly again, rigging the insides as a flying museum. The USAF in its wisdom let them have at it, as they knew they could not spend enough to actually make it fly. However as they got 5 of the six piston engines running, somebody at the Pentagon suddenly woke up and realized that civillians would actually fly their airplane.

In reality, the team had rounded up a group of experienced B-36 drivers and crew. However in spite of the hard work, and all the experience of the workers and crews, all the AF could see in its crystal ball was a mile wide smoking hole in the middle of a city with a big piece of metal sticking out saying USAF, Liability concerns I am told shot down the project. At the same time the big bird was still parked in the same spot, which was now all that was left as GSW was shut down to make way for DFW.

So it was dismantled and trucked over to a grassy area at the Consolidated Factory, along with a couple of other historic airplanes, put up a sign declaring it a museum, and left to resume the rot process. Then again as the airplane renewed its disintegration, somebody thought it would be a significant display for a newer proposed Aviation Museum for the DFW area. So this time it was brought into the old factory where General Dynamics and the old Consolidated veterans could make magic once again.

Wonderful progress was made on the various sections, and the nose section towed around town to publicize the event. However the new home was having trouble. As I understand it, Ross Perot was working to have the museum located at Alliance Airport, twenty miles north north west of DFW, and pretty much straight north of Fort Worth.

However Politics got in the way again and funding dried up as the D side of DFW wanted it closer to Dallas. Meanwhile the sound of paint peeling could be heard around the 36, now evicted from the factory which needed more space. By this point all sides were dug in, except for the air force, which got pissed off by the whole thing, and decided the best home and chance of survival would be at the Pima Museum in Arizona. Very quietly one night the airplane was put on flatbeds, and whisked off to AZ.

Note that it is not intended to fly again, and is now missing most of its engines. The props are mounted on phony crankshafts attached to the wing. In the following link, the current status of the grand old lady is given. She is looking better, and I hope things go her way in the future.

But good lord, it would have been something to see it fly again.


http://www.pimaair.org/project.php?rid=1
Click the image to open in full size.

The last B-36 produced now stands on display at the Pima Air and Space Museum Could she be restored to flight status? It's not a question of "can", but whether someone will take the initiative to cut through the red tape. . .
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Last edited by Lil4X; 11-07-09 at 09:00 AM..
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Old 11-07-09, 10:37 AM   #2
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Awesome! That thing has to be insanely loud!


I would like to see this restored and flying at shows. Only 8 left and one of them looks to be too far gone to bring back.

http://www.b-58hustler.com/
Click the image to open in full size.

Last edited by neurocity; 11-07-09 at 10:43 AM..
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Old 11-07-09, 08:22 PM   #3
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I was trying to get a rough idea of how big this plane is, I found this picture which kind of helps.

Since there are a good number of people on the forums that are my age or younger, here it is.
Click the image to open in full size.
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Old 11-07-09, 09:38 PM   #4
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Although the fuselage is about 100' shorter than a 747's, it's wingspan is considerably wider. When it first went operational in 1948, it was simply amazing. To see something that weighed 200 tons actually claw itself into the air was beyond beyond belief. When the noise from those six turbo-supercharged Wasp Majors, combined with the howl of the four jet engines on takeoff had you expecting the earth to open up from the sonic assault and swallow the aircraft whole. It was a physical experience, even from 200 yards away.

As would be said of other aircraft a generation later, the B-36 did not so much fly - it simply beat the air into submission.

Click the image to open in full size.
B-36 on display with a few lesser aircraft under her massive wing at the AF Museum at Wright-Patterson AFB,
near Dayton, Ohio.
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Old 11-08-09, 06:35 AM   #5
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I have been to that fine museum at Wright Patterson can really attest to its size. That's one of the best air museums in the world and you can see planes up close that would not be able to elsewhere and very modern to historically important air craft, http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/

To me it's kind of like a 2nd National Air and Space Museum, but superior in many respects.
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Old 11-08-09, 09:59 AM   #6
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thats huge
is the wing span longer than B52?
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Old 11-08-09, 01:20 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by UberNoob View Post
thats huge
is the wing span longer than B52?
So is a C5 Galaxy...wonder how it compares to that.

Pima has a lot of stuff....wonder what happened to their SR-71.

http://maps.google.com/maps?t=h&hl=e...,0.038409&z=15
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Old 11-08-09, 03:05 PM   #8
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The B-36's wingspan at 240' is a bit larger than the C-5's 222' and the B-52's 185'. However the C-5 is a transport, and not technically a warbird.

The reason the B-36 was so large was that it was built before the days of aerial refueling, so she had to take off with a fuel load that would take her to her target and return, a distance of 6,795 mi while carrying a 10,000# "payload". This assumes she did not "unload" somewhere over the Soviet Union and brought her "deliverables" home. She was quite literally a flying gas tank.

All bombers built after the B-36 were capable of mid-air refueling, a technology that completely changed the game for our bomber fleet. But the '36 had another trick up her sleeve - those jet engines could be shut down in flight (the original B-36's had no jets) to conserve fuel. The added power was only needed for takeoff and added dash speed on the bombing run. Originally, the B-36 was only operational from three airbases in the US - ones with super-long runways, so the jet engines made her a bit more powerful and broadened her operational capability at full gross nominal.

She was the last of the piston-powered strategic bombers with each of her six engines swinging a massive 19-foot prop. She was a sight to behold.
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Old 11-08-09, 03:28 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lil4X View Post
The B-36's wingspan at 240' is a bit larger than the C-5's 222' and the B-52's 185'. However the C-5 is a transport, and not technically a warbird.

The reason the B-36 was so large was that it was built before the days of aerial refueling, so she had to take off with a fuel load that would take her to her target and return, a distance of 6,795 mi while carrying a 10,000# "payload". This assumes she did not "unload" somewhere over the Soviet Union and brought her "deliverables" home. She was quite literally a flying gas tank.

All bombers built after the B-36 were capable of mid-air refueling, a technology that completely changed the game for our bomber fleet. But the '36 had another trick up her sleeve - those jet engines could be shut down in flight (the original B-36's had no jets) to conserve fuel. The added power was only needed for takeoff and added dash speed on the bombing run. Originally, the B-36 was only operational from three airbases in the US - ones with super-long runways, so the jet engines made her a bit more powerful and broadened her operational capability at full gross nominal.

She was the last of the piston-powered strategic bombers with each of her six engines swinging a massive 19-foot prop. She was a sight to behold.
The real reason the B-36 was conceived, Lil, had nothing to do with the Cold War, as Russia was then our ally against Nazism and, later, Japan, and nobody in America, at the time could really foresee the worldwide postwar struggle between Communism and Capitalism.

No, the B-36 was conceived and designed for an entirely different reason. It was feared, in the early days of the war, that Britain could (?) fall to a German invasion (that almost happened in the summer of 1940). If Britain DID fall, then, of course, we could not have used British bases for the upcoming strategic bombing campaign aganist Germany (or the D-Day invasion), and we would have to rely on an ultra-long-range bomber that could hit German targets from American East Coast or Atlantic bases and return, unrefueled.....possibly as far as 8000 miles round trip. A secondary role, of course, would have been the ability to bomb Japan from Alaskan bases and return. But the plane was so large and complex that it did not actually fly till 1946, when WWII was over and a new, global Cold War had started.


Even though the B-29 project was already underway, the B-29 was simply not large enough for the B-36's role. The B-29 was also another plane that ended up being used for a role it wasn't necessarily designed for. In the early war days, it was feared that South American countries would either fall to the Nazis or allow Nazi occupation (a number of South American dictators were Facists and/or were sympahetic to the Nazis), and a plane was needed that could bomb targets in northern South America from bases in the southern U.S. and the Caribbean....hence the B-29. South America, fortunately, did not go that route, and the B-29 ended up in the Pacific for long-range missions against Japanese targets from bases in China, India, and the Mariana Islands.
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Old 11-08-09, 03:38 PM   #10
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Quote:
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The real reason the B-36 was conceived, Lil, had nothing to do with the Cold War, as Russia was then our ally against Nazism and, later, Japan, and nobody in America, at the time could really foresee the worldwide postwar struggle between Communism and Capitalism.

No, the B-36 was conceived and designed for an entirely different reason. It was feared, in the early days of the war, that Britain could (?) fall to a German invasion (that almost happened in the summer of 1940). If Britain DID fall, then, of course, we could not have used British bases for the upcoming strategic bombing campaign aganist Germany (or the D-Day invasion), and we would have to rely on an ultra-long-range bomber that could hit German targets from American East Coast or Atlantic bases and return, unrefueled.....possibly as far as 8000 miles round trip.
Now I've got a Jane's open and exactly what your saying is what is being said for the B-47 Stratojet.
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Old 11-08-09, 04:13 PM   #11
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Now I've got a Jane's open and exactly what your saying is what is being said for the B-47 Stratojet.
We didn't have the technology for the B-47 during WWII. Unlike the B-36, the B-47 was developed specifically as a Cold War bomber. The B-36 ended up grandfathered into that position, out of necessity, until jet-powered bombers capable of aerial refueling, like the B-47 and B-52, were ready in the late 40's and early 50's.

I spent some time, BTW, with the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. as a tour guide, and was officially a part of the Enola Gay B-29/atomic bomb display.
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Old 11-08-09, 05:29 PM   #12
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Quote:
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We didn't have the technology for the B-47 during WWII. Unlike the B-36, the B-47 was developed specifically as a Cold War bomber. The B-36 ended up grandfathered into that position, out of necessity, until jet-powered bombers capable of aerial refueling, like the B-47 and B-52, were ready in the late 40's and early 50's.
Your right...There were 6 planes Boeing had in the works for the same goal.
B-47 started during the war, but didn't make its flight until 1947.
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Old 11-08-09, 05:42 PM   #13
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Here ya go Lil.
http://www.modelplanes.com/military-...r1100scale.cfm
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Old 11-08-09, 05:57 PM   #14
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Russians got their old Tupolev-95 Bears to fly again, so I don't see why not ?
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Old 11-08-09, 06:26 PM   #15
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Russians got their old Tupolev-95 Bears to fly again, so I don't see why not ?
They never stopped flying them. Those are the equal to our B52's
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