20 July 1955: At Carswell Air Force Base, Fort Worth, Texas, the Convair NB-36H Nuclear Test Aircraft, serial number 51-5712, made its first flight.
In the late 1940s engineers began working on an aircraft that could be powered by a nuclear reactor. The reactor would heat air to provide jet thrust, rather than burning fuel and air to do so. A 60 megawatt reactor was envisioned.
The NB-36 was built to test the shielding requirements of an airborne nuclear reactor and to determine the effects of radiation on aircraft systems.
The Nuclear Test Aircraft was built from a Convair B-36H-20-CF Peacemaker strategic bomber, one of 61 that had been destroyed or damaged by a tornado that struck Carswell AFB in 1952. 51-5712 was so heavily damaged that the airframe was written off, but it was rebuilt with a completely new nose section with a shielded cockpit, and was otherwise very heavily modified by Convair.
A one-megawatt Aircraft Shield Test Reactor developed by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, weighing approximately 35,000 pounds (15,875 kilograms), was installed in the bomber’s aft bomb bay. Though the reactor was fully operational, it did not power the airplane.
As with other B-36s, a combination of six Pratt & Whitney Wasp Major R-4360-53 air-cooled, 28-cylinder radial engines, and four General Electric J47-GE-19 turbojet engines, powered the NB-36.
The modified bomber could reach a maximum speed of 420 miles per hours at 47,000 feet. It had a maximum gross weight of 357,500 pounds.
During the test program, the NB-36 made 47 flights with a total of 215 hours flight time.
Based on the test results, the entire project was cancelled, and 51-5712 was scrapped at Fort Worth in 1958.
20 July 1933: At 11:58 a.m. (17:58 UTC) on the fifth day of his solo around-the-world flight, Wiley Post took off from Khabarovsk, Siberia, heading toward Nome, Alaska, 2,416 miles (3,888 kilometers) to the east-northeast (great circle route).
Post missed his destination and, exhausted, became lost. He flew over Alaska for approximately seven hours before sighting a remote U.S. Army Signal Corps radio station at Flat, Alaska, a small gold mining town located along the Iditarod Trail in southwestern Alaska.
Post landed his Lockheed Model 5C Vega, NR105W, The Winnie Mae of Oklahoma, on a small landing field at the eastern edge of the town. The airplane’s wheels sank into the soft surface and Winnie Mae nosed over, damaging its propeller, engine cowling and right landing gear strut. Wiley Post was unhurt.
The International News Service (INS) reported:
“. . . Utter exhaustion which numbed his mind so that he could not properly pilot his course caused him to become lost for seven hours over Alaska yesterday after he had been in the air more than 22 hours on his 3,000-mile hop from Siberia to Alaska during which he battled the most adverse weather conditions, he revealed today.
“Sighting the Flat radio station caused him to land here. He said that he could at least get his directions again. He ran into soft ground on the landing field, nosing over, breaking his right wheel strut, damaging the engine cowling and valves and bending the propeller. Post was uninjured. . . .”
A replacement propeller was flown in from Fairbanks and repairs were made. He continued the following day, taking off at 7:28 a.m., local.