Tag Archives: General Electric J47-GE-19

30 April 1959

Convair B-36J-1-CF 52-2220 at NMUSAF, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio.

30 April 1959: Convair B-36J-1-CF Peacemaker, serial number 52-2220, landed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, Ohio, completing the very last flight ever made by one of the giant Cold War-era bombers. It is on the collection of the National Museum of the United States Air Force.

Convair B-36J 52-2220 was among the last group of 33 B-36 bombers built. It was operated by an aircraft commander/pilot, co-pilot, two navigators, bombardier, two flight engineers, two radio operators, two electronic countermeasures operators and five gunners, a total 16 crewmembers. Frequently a third pilot and other additional personnel were carried.

Crewmebers pose in front of a B-36F, wearing capstan-type partial pressure suites for protection at high altitude. Front (L-R): G.L. Whiting, B.L. Woods, I.G. Hanten, and R.L. D’Abadie. Back (L-R):A.S. Witchell, J.D. McEachern, J.G. Parker and R. D. Norvell. (Jet Pilot Overseas)
Crew members pose in front of a Convair B-36F-1-CF Peacemaker, 49-2669, wearing David Clark Co. S-2 capstan-type partial pressure suits and early K-1 “split shell” 2-piece helmets for protection at high altitude. Front (L-R): G.L. Whiting, B.L. Woods, I.G. Hanten, and R.L. D’Abadie. Back (L-R):A.S. Witchell, J.D. McEachern, J.G. Parker and R. D. Norvell. (Jet Pilot Overseas)

The bomber is 162 feet, 1 inch (49.403 meters) long with a wingspan of 230 feet (70.104 meters) and overall height of 46 feet, 9 inches (14.249 meters). The empty weight is 171,035 pounds (77,580 kilograms) and combat weight is 266,100 pounds (120,700 kilograms). Maximum takeoff weight is 410,000 pounds (185,973 kilograms).

The B-36J 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-36J had a cruise speed of 203 miles per hour (327 kilometers per hour) and a maximum speed of 411 miles per hour (661 kilometers per hour) at 36,400 feet (11,905 meters) . The service ceiling was 39,900 feet (12,162 meters) and its range was 6,800 miles (10,944 kilometers) with a 10,000 pound (4,536 kilogram) bomb load. The maximum range was 10,000 miles (16,093 kilometers).

Convair B-36J-1-CF Peacemaker 52-2220. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

Designed during World War II, nuclear weapons were unknown to the Consolidated-Vultee engineers. The bomber was built to carry up to 86,000 pounds (39,009 kilograms) of conventional bombs in two bomb bays. It could carry the 43,600 pound (19,776.6 kilogram) T-12 Cloudmaker, 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.

For defense, the B-36J had six retractable defensive gun turrets and gun turrets in the nose and tail. All 16 guns were remotely operated. Each position mounted two M24A1 20 mm autocannons. 9,200 rounds of ammunition were carried.

Convair B-36 Peacemakers at Davis-Monthan AFB, Tucson, Arizona. (U.S. Air Force)

Between 1946 and 1954, 384 B-36 Peacemakers were built. They were never used in combat. Only five still exist.

Convair B-36J-1-CF 52-2220 being moved from Building 1 to Building 3 at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, October 2002. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

6 April 1955, 18:00:04.1 UTC

Operation Teapot HA fireball, 6 April 1955. (U.S. Air Force)
Operation Teapot HA fireball, 6 April 1955. (U.S. Air Force)

6 April 1955: At 10:00:04.1 a.m. local time (1800 GMT), a Convair B-36H assigned to the 4925th Test Group (Atomic) at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico dropped an atomic weapon from 42,000 feet (12,802 meters) over the Nevada Test Site, Area 1. The bomb was parachute-retarded to slow its fall so that the bomber could escape its blast effects.

The weapon was a test device produced by the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory to investigate its use as an air-to-air anti-aircraft missile warhead. The bomb detonated at 36,620 feet (11,162 meters) with an explosive force of 3.2 kilotons. Because of the altitude of the explosion, there was no significant fallout.

All test observers (with goggles) agreed that the fireball appeared more intensely bright than in events of similar yield fired at lower altitude.

United States High-Altitude Test Experiences by Herman Hoerlin, Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory, June 1976, at Page 12.

Captain William L. Hickey, USAF, pilot of a Convair B-36 Peacemaker very long-range heavy bomber during Operation Teapot, 1955. Captain Hickey is wearing a David Clark Co. S-2 capstan-type partial-pressure suit and K-1 helmet for protection at high altitude. (U.S. Air Force via Jet Pilot Overseas)
Captain William L. Hickey, USAF, pilot of a Convair B-36 Peacemaker very long-range heavy bomber during Operation Teapot, 1955. Captain Hickey is wearing a David Clark Co. S-2 capstan-type partial-pressure suit and K-1 helmet for protection at high altitude. (Jet Pilot Overseas)

The warhead was designed at the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory (LASL) in New Mexico and was similar to the Wasp Prime device, which had been detonated earlier in the Operation Teapot test series. It used a spherical implosion device. The warhead was a 17-inch (43.2 centimeters) diameter sphere weighing approximately 125 pounds (56.7 kilograms). It was placed inside a Mark 5 bomb case which weighed 1,085 pounds (492.2 kilograms).

This was the only bomb dropped by parachute at the Nevada Test Site.

Flight crew of a Convair B-36 Peacemaker, 4925th Test Group (Atomic) during Operation Teapot, 1955. The crewmen are wearing David Clark Co. S-2 capstan-type partial-pressure suits for protection at high altitude. The two white helmets are early K-1 "split shell" 2-piece helmets, while the green helmets are later K-1 1-piece models. (U.S. Air Force via Jet Pilot Overseas)
Flight crew of a Convair B-36 Peacemaker, 4925th Test Group (Atomic) during Operation Teapot, 1955. The crewmen are wearing David Clark Co. S-2 capstan-type partial-pressure suits for protection at high altitude. The two white helmets are early K-1 “split shell” two-piece helmets, while the green helmets are later K-1 one-piece models. (Jet Pilot Overseas)

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).

Three flight crewmen don their parachutes before boarding the B-36H Peacemaker for Operation Teapot HA, 5 April 1955. The automobile behind them is a 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air 4-door sedan. (U.S. Air Force)
Three flight crewmen don their parachutes before boarding the B-36H Peacemaker for Operation Teapot HA, 5 April 1955. The automobile behind them is a 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air 4-door sedan. (U.S. Air Force)

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).

A smoke ring formed following the detonation of the Operation Teapot HA test. Contrails of the test aircraft are visible. (U.S. Air Force)

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).

Convair RB-36H-40-CF 51-13741 Featherweight III. (U.S. Air Force)

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.

This Convair RB-36D-5-CF, 49-2686, is similar in appearance to the B-36H used in Operation Teapot HA. (U.S. Air Force)
This Convair RB-36D-5-CF, 49-2686, is similar in appearance to the B-36H used in Operation Teapot HA. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

26 March 1954

This Convair RB-36H-40-CF Peacemaker Featherweight II, 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 two of 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

12 February 1959

Convair B-36J-10-CF Peacemaker, 52-2827, the last B-36 built. (U.S. Air Force)
Convair B-36J-75-CF Peacemaker, 52-2827, the last B-36 built. (U.S. Air Force)

The Last Peacemaker: This gigantic airplane, a Convair B-36J-75-CF Peacemaker, serial number 52-2827, was the very last of the ten-engine strategic bombers built by the Convair Division of General Dynamics at Fort Worth, Texas. It was completed 1 July 1954. On 14 August, it was delivered to the Strategic Air Command, 92nd Bombardment Wing, Heavy, at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington. In April 1957, 52-2827 was assigned to the 95th Bombardment Wing, Heavy, at Biggs Air Force Base, El Paso, Texas.

The last one built, 52-2827 was also the last operational B-36.

Convair B-36J-10-CF Peacemaker 52-2827 at Amon Carter Field, Fort Worth, Texas, 12 February 1959. (Unattributed)
Convair B-36J-75-CF Peacemaker 52-2827, City of Fort Worth, at Amon Carter Field, Fort Worth, Texas, 12 February 1959. (Unattributed)

On 12 February 1959, after 4 years, 5 months, 30 days service, the Air Force returned the bomber to Fort Worth. 52-2827 departed Biggs Air Force Base at 11:00 a.m., under the command of Major Frederick J. Winter. Other pilots were Colonel Gerald M. Robinson, commanding the 95th Wing, and Captain Wilson P. Smith. (Colonel Robinson flew as first pilot during the takeoff, while Major Winter flew the landing.) The bomber’s crew were hand-picked, and included two navigators, two flight engineers, an observer, two radio operators, two gunners and a crew chief. Ten newspaper, radio and television reporters were on board as well.

Crew of City of Fort Worth

The B-36 touched down at Amon Carter Field at 2:55 p.m. The Peacemaker’s log book was closed out with a total of 1,414 hours, 50 minutes, flight time.

After a ceremony attended by thousands, the bomber was officially retired. A bugler blew “Taps,” and then the Peacemaker was towed away.

It was put on display at Amon Carter Field. After decades of neglect, the bomber was placed in the care of the Pima Air and Space Museum at Tucson for restoration and display.

The last Peacemaker, Convair B-36J-10-CF 52-2827, comes to the end of the assembly line at Fort Worth, Texas. (University of North Texas Libraries)
The last Peacemaker, Convair B-36J-75-CF 52-2827, comes to the end of the assembly line at Fort Worth, Texas. (University of North Texas Libraries)

Convair B-36J 52-2827 is one of 14 “Featherweight III” high altitude variants. It was built without the six retractable defensive gun turrets of the standard B-36, retaining only the two M24A1 20 mm autocannons in the tail. This reduced the crew requirement to 13. It is 162 feet, 1 inch (49.403 meters) long with a wingspan of 230 feet (70.104 meters) and overall height of 46 feet, 9 inches (14.249 meters). The empty weight is 166,125 pounds (75,353 kilograms) and loaded weight is 262,500 pounds (119,068 kilograms). Maximum takeoff weight is 410,000 pounds (185,973 kilograms).

The B-36J has ten engines. There are six air-cooled, supercharged 4,362.49 cubic-inch-displacement (71.488 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-36J Featherweight III had a cruise speed of 230 miles per hour (370 kilometers per hour) and a maximum speed of 418 miles per hour (673 kilometers per hour). The service ceiling was 43,600 feet (13,289 meters) and its combat radius was 3,985 miles (6,413 kilometers). The maximum range was 10,000 miles (16,093 kilometers).

The B-36 was designed during World War II and nuclear weapons were unknown to the Consolidated-Vultee Aircraft Corporation engineers. The bomber was built to carry up to 86,000 pounds (39,009 kilograms) of conventional bombs in the four-section bomb bay. It could carry the 43,600 pound (19,777 kilogram) T-12 Cloudmaker, a conventional explosive earth-penetrating bomb. When armed with nuclear weapons, the B-36 could carry several Mk.15 3.8 megaton thermonuclear bombs. By combining the bomb bays, one Mk.17 15-megaton thermonuclear bomb could be carried.

Bomb, Mark 17, displayed with Convair B-36J Peacemaker at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force)
Bomb, Mark 17 Mod 2, displayed with Convair B-36J Peacemaker at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force)

Between 1946 and 1954, 384 B-36 Peacemakers were built. They were never used in combat. Only four still exist.

Convair B-36J-10-CF 52-2827 at the Pima Air and Space Museum, Tucson, Arizona. (B-36 Peacemaker Museum)
Convair B-36J-75-CF 52-2827 at the Pima Air & Space Museum, Tucson, Arizona. (B-36 Peacemaker Museum)

TDiA has received an number of comments recently regarding the safety of the Convair B-36 Peacemaker strategic bomber. Based on our research, out of the 384 built, 27 B-36s were lost in accidents between 1950 and 1957, amounting to just 7% of the fleet. 165 crew members were killed. The most common cause seems to be a fire following a landing gear collapse. The first, a B-36B, was lost on 14 February 1950. That incident is described at https://www.thisdayinaviation.com/13-february-1950/ . On 27 April 1951, a flight of four North Americaan Aviation F-51D Mustangs attacked a B-36D over Oklahoma. One fighter collided with the bomber, which crashed, resulting in the death of 12 of the 17 airman on board. (The F-51D pilot was also killed.) 6 May 1951, a B-36D crashed while attempting to land in high winds at Kirtland AFB, New Mexico. 23 of 25 on board were killed. 22 August 1951, a taxiing RB-36E collided with a parked RB-36E, which was destroyed. No injuries. 29 January 1952, a B-36D landed short of the runway and skidded into a snow bank at Fairchild AFB, Washington. The aircraft was destroyed by fire, but there were no fatalities. 6 March 1952, a B-36F was destroyed by fire while parked. A fuel leak was caused when the left landing gear failed on landing. There were no fatalities. 15 April 1952, a B-36D overran the runway during a maximum weight takeoff at Fairchild AFB, WA, because flight control trim had been incorrectly set. The aircraft was destroyed by fire. 15 of 17 on board were killed. 28 May 1952, a B-36F returning to Carswell AFB after takeoff due to a loose cowling, crashed and caught fire when its landing gear collapsed on landing, 7 on board were killed. 4 August 1952. A B-36F was destroyed by fire while parked at Carswell AFB. While being fueled, gasoline overflowed from a fuel vent and was ignited by a ground power unit. No injuries or deaths. 13 February 1953, a B-36H was misdirected during a GCA approach to Goose Bay, Labrador. It crash landed on a hill. 2 of 17 on board were killed. 5 August 1952, a modified B-36D being flown by a Convair crew crashed in the ocean west of San Diego, California, when it’s number 5 engine caught fire, which then spread to the rest of the wing. 7 of 8 crewmen bailed out while the pilot remained at the controls to guide the bomber away from the populated area. He was killed. 1 crewman drowned. 4 crewmen received minor injuries. 18 February 1953, an RB-36H was destroyed by fire when it’s landing gear collapsed during landing at Walker AFB, New Mexico. Of the 22 on board there were no fatalities. 18 March 1953, an RB-36H was destroyed when it hit a hill in Labrador. The aircraft was off course and one-and-a-half hours ahead of schedule. All 23 on board were killed. 5 August 1953, an RB-36H went down in the Atlantic Ocean (cause not discovered at this time.) 19 of 23 on board were killed. 11 December 1953, a B-36D crashed into a mountain in poor visibility while on approach to Biggs AFB, Texas. (Not in GCA radar contact). 9 of 9 on board were killed. 26 February 1954, at Fairchild AFB, the landing gear of a taxiing B-36D collapsed, resulting in the aircraft being destroyed by fire. No fatalities among the 20 on board. 29 March 1954, a B-36D crashed while practicing a takeoff abort at Fairchild AFB. All 7 on board were killed. 27 August 1954, an RB-36H making its sixth practice night approach at Ellsworth AFB hit an obstruction on a hill with its left wing and crashed. (Obstruction lights were inoperative due to a lightning strike.) 26 of 27 on board were killed. [Altimeter was in error, GCA was out of calibration, resulting in the aircraft being 150 feet lower on the glide slope than it should have been.] 8 February 1955, a B-36D landed short of the runway during a practice landing at Carswell AFB, Texas. Landing gear was sheared off and the aircraft damaged beyond economical repair. No fatalities. 6 March 1955, a B-36D landing at Loring AFB, Maine, hit a wingtip on a snowbank, resulting in the aircraft being destroyed by fire. No fatalities but some (unknown how many) serious injuries among the 11 on board. 25 May 1955, a B-36J disintegrated in flight during a thunderstorm/tornado near Sterling City, Texas. All 15 on board were killed. (Lost outboard wing panels and all tail surfaces. Impacted in level attitude with little forward motion.) 4 January 1956, an RB-36H crashed on landing at Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota after uneven power reduction. Destroyed by fire. No fatalities. 19 January 1956, a B-36D made a hard landing at Biggs AFB, Texas. No fatalities. Aircraft damaged beyond economical repair. 15 November 1956, a B-36H lost power on takeoff from Lowry AFB, Colorado, due to fuel starvation. It crashed one mile short of the runway attempting an emergency landing at Stapleton Airport, Denver. Aircraft destroyed by fire. No fatalities among 21 on board. 6 June 1957, a B-36H was damaged beyond economical repair while flying through a thunderstorm near Carswell AFB, Texas. No fatalities. 9 November 1957, an RB-36H was destroyed by fire while parked at Ramey AFB, Puerto Rico. No fatalities… A major incident occurred 1 September 1952, when a tornado struck Carswell AFB. 61 B-36s on the ground were damaged. Most were repaired and returned to service within two weeks.

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

1 July 1954

The last Peacemaker, Convair B-36J-10-CF 52-2827, comes to the end of the assembly line at Fort Worth, Texas.(University of North Texas Libraries)
The last Peacemaker, Convair B-36J-10-CF 52-2827, comes to the end of the assembly line at Fort Worth, Texas, 1 July 1954. (University of North Texas Libraries)

1 July 1954: The final Convair B-36 Peacemaker, B-36J-10-CF 53-2827, a Featherweight III variant, completed assembly at Convair Division of General Dynamics plant at Fort Worth, Texas. The last B-36 built, this was also the very last of the ten-engine very long range heavy bombers in service. It was retired 12 February 1959, and is now in the collection of the Pima Air and Space Museum, Tucson, Arizona.

Convair B-36J 52-2827 is one of 14 Featherweight III high altitude variants. It was built without the six retractable defensive gun turrets of the standard B-36, retaining only the two 20 mm autocannons in the tail. This reduced the crew requirement to 13. The bomber is 162.1 feet (49.4 meters) long with a wingspan of 230.0 feet (70.1 meters) and overall height of 46.8 feet (14.3 meters). The wings had 2° dihedral, an angle of incidence of 3° and -2° twist. The wings’ leading edges were swept aft to 15° 5′. The airplane’s total wing area was 4,772 square feet (443.33 square meters). The B-36J III has an empty weight of 166,165 pounds (75,371 kilograms) and its maximum takeoff weight is 410,000 pounds (185,973 kilograms).

The B-36J has ten engines. There are six air-cooled, turbosupercharged 4,362.494 cubic-inch-displacement (71.488 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 engines incorporated an internal single-stage supercharger, but were also each equipped with two General Electric BH-1 turbosuperchargers. The R-4360-53 had a Normal (continuous power) rating of 2,800 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m., and Military Power rating of 3,500 horsepower at 2,800 r.p.m., with a 30 minute limit. Its maximum rating was 3,800 horsepower at 2,800 r.p.m. with water/alcohol injection for takeoff, with a 5 minute limit. The engines turned three-bladed Curtiss Electric constant-speed, reversible pitch 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 outboard of the radial engines 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. It had a continuous power rating of 4,730 pounds of thrust (21.040 kilonewtons) at 7,630 r.p.m., and Military Power rating 5,200 pounds of thrust (23.131 kilonewtons) at 7,950 r.p.m., 30 minute limit (5 minutes for takeoff). The J47-GE 19 was 3 feet, 3 inches (0.991 meters) in diameter, 12 feet, 4 inches (3.658 meters) long, and weighed 2,495 pounds (1,132 kilograms).

Convair B-36J-10-CF 52-2827 at the Pima Air and Space Museum, Tucson, Arizona. (B-36 Peacemaker Museum)
Convair B-36J-10-CF 52-2827 at the Pima Air and Space Museum, Tucson, Arizona. (B-36 Peacemaker Museum)

The B-36J Featherweight III had a cruise speed of 202 knots (232 miles per hour/374 kilometers per hour) and a maximum speed of 375 knots (432 miles per hour (695 kilometers per hour) at 38,000 feet (11,582 meters). The service ceiling was 43,700 feet (13,320 meters). It had a combat radius of 3,465 nautical miles (3,987 statute miles/6,417 kilometers) with a 10,000 pound (4,536 kilogram) bomb load. The maximum ferry range was 8,200 nautical miles (9,436 statute miles/15,186 kilometers).

The B-36J III had a maximum bomb load of 72,000 pounds (32,659 kilograms), carried in four bomb bays. The bomb bay capacity was limited by the physical size of each type weapon, rather than its weight. This ranged from as many as 132 500-pound bombs, 28 2,000-pound bombs, or  4 12,000-pound bombs. It could carry a single 43,600 pound (19,777 kilogram) T-12 Cloudmaker, a conventional explosive earth-penetrating bomb, or several nuclear fission or thermonuclear fusion bombs. By combining the bomb bays, one 41,400 pound (18,779 kilogram) Mk.17 15-megaton thermonuclear bomb could be carried.

Los Alamos Scientific Laboaratory-designed Mk.17 two-stage radiation implosion thermonuclear bomb.

For defense, the B-36J Featherweight III two M24A1 20 mm autocannons in a remotely operated tail turret, with 600 rounds of ammunition per gun.

Between 1946 and 1954, 384 B-36 Peacemakers were built. They were never used in combat. Only five still exist.

Convair B-36J-10-CF Peacemaker, 52-2827, the last B-36 built. (U.S. Air Force)
Convair B-36J-10-CF Peacemaker, 52-2827, the last B-36 built. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes