26 March 1954

This Convair RB-36H-40-CF Peacemaker Featherweight III, 51-13741, is similar to the B-36H involved in “The Miracle Landing” at Carswell AFB, 26 March 1954. (U.S. Air Force)

Insignia of 7th Bombardment Wing, Heavy26 March 1954: While on a training mission, a Convair B-36H Peacemaker assigned to the 9th Bombardment Squadron, Heavy, 7th Bombardment Wing, Heavy, based at Carswell Air Force Base, Texas, and under the command of Captain Berry H. Young, suffers a series of failures that endangered the aircraft and its 19-man crew.

All three Pratt & Whitney Wasp Major reciprocating engines on the bomber’s right wing were inoperative. Insufficient electrical power was available to feather the propellers on to 0f those, increasing the drag on the right wing.

The four GE J47 turbojet engines, placed under the wings in 2-engine pods, could not be started.

With only three of the B-36’s ten engines operating, and all on the left wing, combined with the two unfeathered propellers on the right wing, the giant bomber yawed to the right.

Captain Young declared an emergency and returned to Carswell AFB, setting up a straight-in approach to the runway.

Carswell AFB, Fort Worth, Texas.

Problems with the hydraulic system prevented the airplane’s flaps from being lowered, and required that the landing gear be lowered by hand. Without flaps, the approach speed would have to be higher than normal to prevent the wings from stalling. With only three engines, there was insufficient power to “go around” for another attempt to land.

Following the emergency procedures, the crew was able to lower the landing gear just before the B-36 touched down.

In what has been described as “The Miracle Landing,” Captain Young made a “superior landing” and rolled until it came to a full stop.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported:

Miracle Landing Saves Crewmen, Crippled B-36

     Nimble aircraft maneuvering saved 19 lives and a costly B-36 bomber here Friday.

     While hundreds of anxious airmen looked on, a B-36 landed at Carswell Air Force Base with a squadron of troubles aboard.

     Three engines were out.

     The landing flaps were out of commission.

     But Capt. Berry H. Young, aircraft commander and native Texan, landed the giant bomber safely on Carswell’s runway.

General on Hand

     First to pump Young’s hand was Brig. Gen. John D. Ryan, 19th Air Division commander, who rushed to the airplane as Young stepped to the ground.

     Here are the misfortunes that overtook the plane in sickening quickness just about 1 p.m. Friday:

     The No. 4 engine conked out. Captain Young feathered the prop.

     Seconds later, the No. 5 engine “ran away.” That means the propeller began to revolve at excessive speed.Young was forced to feather that prop, too.

     After a brief breather, the No. 6 engine started cutting out and quit.

     Young tried to start his outboard jets on his right wing. They refused to function.

     He declared an emergency condition and started to return to the base.

     As young neared the field he discovered he couldn’t lower the landing gear. The gear had to be lowered by emergency procedure, which included lowering the wheels by hand.

Superior Landing

     With all this facing him, Young executed what seasoned Carswell observers called a superior landing.

     Captain Young is a native of Dallas. His co-pilot was 1st Lt. Roland J. Reidy of Worcester, Mass. His flight engineer was 1st Lt. William E. Nunnery of San Diego, Cal., second flight engineer was 1st. Lt. John W. Williamson of Cedarville, Ohio.

     General Ryan said the entire crew of the ship behaved in sterling fashion and deserved full credit for saving the lives of those aboard the plane.

Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Vol. 74, No. 55, Saturday, 27 March 1954, Page 1, Columns 3–5

Captain Young’s crew received the Strategic Air Command’s Crew of the Month Award, and the personal congratulations of General Curtiss E. LeMay.

This Convair RB-36D-5-CF Peacemaker, 49-2686, is similar in appearance to the B-36H involved in “The Miracle Landing,” 26 March 1954.

The Convair B-36H Peacemaker was the definitive version of the ten engine bomber, with 156 B-36H/RB-36H built out of the total production of 383 Peacemakers. It is similar to the previous B-36F variant, though with a second flight engineer’s position, a revised crew compartment, and improved radar controlling the two 20 mm autocannons in the tail turret.

The B-36H was 162 feet, 1 inch (49.403 meters) long with a wingspan of 230 feet (70.104 meters) and overall height of 46 feet, 8 inches (14.224 meters). The total area of its wings was 4,772 square feet (443.3 square meters). The wings’ leading edges were swept aft 15° 5′ 39″. Their angle of incidence was 3°, with -2° twist and 2° dihedral. The empty weight of the B-36H was 165,887pounds (75,245 kilograms) and the maximum takeoff weight is 357,500 pounds (162,159 kilograms).

The B-36H has ten engines. There are six air-cooled, supercharged 4,362.49 cubic-inch-displacement (71.49 liter) Pratt & Whitney Wasp Major C6 (R-4360-53) four-row, 28-cylinder radial engines placed inside the wings in a pusher configuration. These had a compression ratio of 6.7:1 and required 115/145 aviation gasoline. The R-4360-53 had a Normal Power rating of 2,800 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m. Its Military Power rating was 3,500 horsepower at 2,800 r.p.m., and 3,800 horsepower at 2,800 r.p.m. with water injection—the same for Takeoff. The engines turned three-bladed Curtiss Electric constant-speed, reversible propellers with a diameter of 19 feet, 0 inches (5.791 meters) through a 0.375:1 gear reduction. The R-4360-53 is 9 feet, 9.00 inches (2.972 meters) long, 4 feet, 7.00 inches (1.397 meters) in diameter, and weighs 4,040 pounds (1,832.5 kilograms).

Four General Electric J47-GE-19 turbojet engines are suspended under the wings in two-engine pods. The J47 is a single-shaft axial-flow turbojet engine with a 12-stage compressor section, 8 combustion chambers, and single-stage turbine. The J47-GE-19 was modified to run on gasoline and was rated at 5,200 pounds of thrust (23.131 kilonewtons).

The B-36H was the fastest variant of the Peacemaker series, with a cruise speed of 216 knots (249 miles per hour/400 kilometers per hour) and a maximum speed of 382 knots (440 miles per hour/707 kilometers per hour) at 35,500 feet (10,820 meters). The service ceiling was 47,000 feet (14,326 meters) and its combat radius was 3,190 nautical miles (3,671 statute miles/5,908 kilometers). The ferry range was 7,120 nautical miles (8,194 statute miles/13,186 kilometers).

The B-36H has six remotely-controlled retractable gun turrets mounting two M24A1 20 mm autocannon, each, with 600 rounds of ammunition per gun. The tail turret was radar-controlled, and another 2 guns were mounted in the nose.

The B-36 was designed during World War II, when nuclear weapons were unknown to the manufacturer. The bomber was built to carry up to 86,000 pounds (39,009 kilograms) of conventional bombs in fours bomb bays. It could carry two 43,000 pound ( kilogram) T-12 Cloudmakers, a conventional explosive earth-penetrating bomb, or several Mk.15 thermonuclear bombs. By combining the bomb bays, one Mk.17 25-megaton thermonuclear bomb could be carried.

© 2023, Bryan R. Swopes

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3 thoughts on “26 March 1954

  1. Is any of those planes still intact anywhere in the world for viewing? I don’t remember seeing one at Dayton.

    1. Convair B-36J 52-2220 Peacemaker is in the collection of the National Museum of the United States Air Force. Another B-36J, 52-2827, the very last B-36, is at the Pima Air and Space Museum, Tucson, Arizona. B-36J 52-2217 is at the Strategic Air Command Museum, Ashland, Nebraska. RB-36H 51-13730 is at the Castle Air Museum, Atwater, California.

    2. Yes. There are several. But the one I know for sure of is in the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton Ohio.

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