Tag Archives: James H. Morris

26 February–2 March 1949: B-50 Lucky Lady II

Boeing B-50A-5-BO Superfortress 46-010, Lucky Lady II, lands at Carswell Air Force Base, Fort Worth Texas, at 10:31 a.m., 2 March 1949. (LIFE Magazine)
Boeing B-50A-5-BO Superfortress 46-010, Lucky Lady II, lands at Carswell Air Force Base, Fort Worth Texas, at 10:31 a.m., 2 March 1949. (LIFE Magazine)

26 February–2 March 1949: A Boeing B-50A Superfortress, Air Force serial number 46-010, named Lucky Lady II, flew from Carswell Air Force Base, Fort Worth, Texas, and with inflight refueling, circumnavigated the Earth non-stop, landing back at Carswell after 94 hours, 1 minute. The bomber had traveled 23,452 miles (37,742 kilometers).

Lucky Lady II was the backup aircraft for this flight, but became primary when the first B-50, Global Queen, had to abort with engine problems. It was a standard production B-50A-5-BO (originally designated B-29D) with the exception of an additional fuel tank mounted in its bomb bay.

The aircraft commander was Captain James G. Gallagher, with 1st Lieutenant  Arthur M. Neal as second pilot. Captain James H. Morris was the copilot. In addition to the three pilots, the flight was double-crewed, with each man being relieved at 4-to-6 hour intervals. The navigators were  Captain Glenn E. Hacker and 1st Lieutenant Earl L. Rigor, and the radar operators were 1st Lieutenant Ronald B. Bonner and 1st Lieutenant William F. Caffrey. Captain David B. Parmalee was project officer for this flight and flew as chief flight engineer, with flight engineers Technical Sergeant Virgil L. Young and Staff Sergeant Robert G. Davis. Technical Sergeant Burgess C. Cantrell and Staff Sergeant Robert R. McLeroy were the radio operators. Gunners were Technical Sergeant Melvin G. Davis and Staff Sergeant Donald G. Traugh Jr.

Four inflight refuelings were required using the looped hose method. Two KB-29M tankers of the 43d Air Refueling Squadron were placed at air bases along the Lucky Lady II‘s route, at the Azores, Saudi Arabia, the Philippine Islands and Hawaiian Islands. The KB-29 flew above the B-50 and lowered a cable and drogue. This was captured by equipment on the bomber and then reeled in, bringing along with it a refueling hose. The hose was attached to the B-50’s refueling manifold and then fuel was transferred from the tanker to the bomber’s tanks by gravity flow.

Each refueling occurred during daylight, but weather made several transfers difficult. One of the two tankers from Clark Field in The Philippines, 45-21705, crashed in bad weather when returning to base, killing the entire 9-man crew.

A Boeing KB-29M tanker refuels B-50A Superfortress Lucky Lady II during its around-the-world-flight, February–March 1949. (U.S. Air Force)
A Boeing KB-29M tanker, possibly 45-21702, refuels B-50A Superfortress Lucky Lady II during its around-the-world-flight, February–March 1949. (U.S. Air Force)

On their arrival at Carswell, the crew of Lucky Lady II was met by Secretary of the Air Force W. Stuart Symington, Jr., General Hoyt S. Vandenberg, Chief of Staff of the Air Force, General Roger M. Ramey, commanding 8th Air Force, and Lieutenant General Curtis E. LeMay, Strategic Air Command. Each member of the crew was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. They also were awarded the Mackay Trophy for the most meritorious flight of the year.

The arrival of Lucky Lady II and its crew was met by the Secretary of the Air Force. (LIFE Magazine)
The arrival of Lucky Lady II and its crew at Carswell AFB, Fort Worth, Texas, was observed by the senior civilian and military members of the United States Air Force.. (LIFE Magazine)
Boeing B-50A-5-BO Superfortress 46-010, now named "KENSMEN," circa 1950. (U.S. Air Force)
Boeing B-50A-5-BO Superfortress 46-010, circa 1950. (U.S. Air Force)

At 11:25 a.m., 13 August 1950, B-50A 46-010, under the command of  Captain Warren E. Griffin, was on a maintenance test flight and returning to its base, Davis-Monthan AFB, Tucson, Arizona  when all four engines failed. Unable to reach the runways, Captain Griffin landed in the desert approximately two miles southeast. Though the landing gear were down, the bomber was severely damaged with all four propellers bent, the belly dented and its tail breaking off. The 11-man crew were uninjured except for the bombardier, 1st Lieutenant Theodore Hastings, who was scratched by cactus which entered the cockpit through the broken Plexiglas nose.

The Superfortress was damaged beyond economical repair and was stricken from the Air Force inventory (“written off”). The unrestored fuselage of Lucky Lady II is at the Planes of Fame Air Museum, Chino, California.

The unrestored fuselage of Boeing B-50A-5-BO Superfortress 46-010 at Planes of Fame, Chino, California. (Stefan Semerdjiev)
The unrestored fuselage of Boeing B-50A-5-BO Superfortress 46-010 at Planes of Fame, Chino, California, 2002. (Stefan Semerdjiev)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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16–18 January 1957

The three Boeing B-52B Stratofortresses at March AFB, 18 January 1957. (U.S. Air Force)
The three Boeing B-52B Stratofortresses at March AFB, 18 January 1957. (U.S. Air Force)

16 January 1957: Operation POWER FLITE. At 1:00 p.m. PST, five Boeing B-52B Stratofortress eight-engine jet bombers of the United States Air Force Strategic Air Command, 93rd Bombardment Wing (Heavy), departed Castle Air Force Base, near Merced, California, on a non-stop around-the-world flight. 45 hours, 19 minutes later, three B-52s landed at March Air Force Base, Riverside, California, completing the 24,325 miles (39,147 kilometer) flight at an average speed of 534 miles per hour (859 kilometers per hour).

The lead Stratofortress, B-52B-35-BO 53-0394, Lucky Lady III, was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel James H. Morris. Morris had been co-pilot aboard Lucky Lady II, a Boeing B-50A Superfortress that flew around the world in 1949. Also aboard Morris’ bomber was Major General Archie J. Old, Jr., commanding 15th Air Force.

Major General Archie J. Old, Jr., U.S. Air Force, in the cockpit of B-52B 53-0394. (LIFE Magazine via Jet Pilot Overseas)

Three of the  bombers were considered primary, with two “spares.” Each B-52 carried a flight crew of nine men, including three pilots and two navigators.

A Boeing B-52 Stratofortress refuels in flight from a Boeing KC-97 Stratotanker. The KC-97 had to enter a shallow dive to increase its speed, while teh B-52 flew in landing configuration to fly slow enough to stay with the tanker. (U.S. Air Force)
A Boeing B-52 Stratofortress refuels in flight from a Boeing KC-97 Stratotanker. The KC-97 had to enter a shallow dive to increase its speed, while the B-52 flew in landing configuration to stay with the tanker. (U.S. Air Force)

Four inflight refuelings from piston-engine Boeing KC-97 Stratotankers were required. More than 100 KC-97s participated in Operation POWER FLITE.

One of the primary B-52s, La Victoria, 53-0397, commanded by Major George Kalebaug, was unable to refuel in flight because of ice build-up in its refueling receptacle. The bomber diverted to Goose Bay, Labrador. A second B-52, a spare, as planned, left the flight over North Africa, diverting to an air base in England.

All 27 crewmembers of the three bombers were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross by General Curtis LeMay. The Mackay Trophy for “the most meritorious flight of the year” was awarded to the 93rd Bombardment Wing.

Lucky Lady III was retired to the National Museum of the United States Air Force. It was scrapped in 1984. 53-0397 went to The Boneyard at Davis-Monthan AFB in 1966, preceded by 53-0398 in 1965.

Flight helmets of the crew of Lucky Lady III, March AFB, 18 January 1957. (LIFE Magazine via Jet Pilot Overseas.)
Flight helmets of the crew of Lucky Lady III, March AFB, 18 January 1957. (LIFE Magazine via Jet Pilot Overseas.)

This record-breaking around the world flight was dramatized in the 1957 Warner Bros. movie “Bombers B-52,” which starred Natalie Wood, Karl Malden and Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.

Poster for the 1957 motion picture, "Bombers B-52".
Poster for the 1957 motion picture “Bombers B-52” (Warner Bros.)

The 93rd Bombardment Wing (Heavy) was the first operational Air Force unit to receive the B-52 Stratofortress, RB-52B 52-8711, on 29 June 1955.

Fifty B-52Bs were built by Boeing at its Plant 2, Seattle, Washington. The B-52B/RB-52B was operated by a six-man flight crew for the bombing mission, and eight for reconnaissance. These were the aircraft commander/pilot, co-pilot, navigator, radar navigator/bombardier, electronic warfare officer and gunner, plus two reconnaissance technicians when required.

The airplane was 156.6 feet, (47.73 meters) long with a wingspan of 185.0 feet (56.39 meters) and overall height of 48.3 feet, (14.72 meters). The wings were mounted high on the fuselage (“shoulder-mounted”) to provide clearance for the engines which were suspended on pylons. The wings had a 6° angle of incidence and 2° 30′ anhedral. The wings’ leading edges were swept aft 36° 54′. The bomber’s empty weight was 164,081 pounds (74,226 kilograms), with a combat weight of 272,000 pounds (123,377 kilograms) and a maximum takeoff weight of 420,000 pounds (190,509 kilograms).

Early production B-52Bs were powered by eight Pratt & Whitney J57-P-1WA turbojet engines, while later aircraft were equipped with J57-P-19W and J57-P-29W or WA turbojets. The engines were grouped in two-engine pods on four under-wing pylons. The J57 was a two-spool, axial-flow engine with a 16-stage compressor section (9 low- and 7-high-pressure stages) and a 3-stage turbine section (1 high- and 2 low-pressure stages). These engines were rated at 8,250 pounds of thrust (36.700 kilonewtons), each, Maximum Continuous Power; 9,500 pounds (42.258 kilonewtons), Military Power (30 minute limit); or 11,400 pounds (50.710 kilonewtons) with water injection (5 minute limit). The J57-P-1WA was 3 feet, 4.5 inches (1.029 meters) in diameter, 13 feet, 1.7 inches (4.006 meters) long, and weighed 4,210 pounds (1,910 kilograms).

The B-52B had a cruise speed of 453 knots (521 miles per hour/839 kilometers per hour) at 35,000 feet (10,668 meters), and a maximum speed of 547 knots (630 miles per hour/1,013 kilometers per hour) at 19,900 feet (6,065 meters). The service ceiling with the maximum bomb load was 48,650 feet (14,829 meters), and 55,350 feet (16,855 meters) for a ferry mission.

Tail gun turret of an early B-52 Stratofortress

Maximum ferry range was 6,460 nautical miles (7,434 statute miles/11,964 kilometers). With the maximum bomb load, the B-52B had a combat radius of 2,620 nautical miles (3,015 statute miles/4,852 kilometers), or 3,135 nautical miles (3,608 statute miles/5,806 kilometers) with the design load. With inflight refueling, though, the bomber’s range was essentially world-wide.

Defensive armament consisted of four Browning Aircraft Machine Guns, Caliber .50, AN-M3, mounted in a tail turret with 600 rounds of ammunition per gun. These guns had a combined rate of fire in excess of 4,000 rounds per minute. (Some B-52s were armed with four M24A1 20 mm autocannons with 400 rounds per gun.)

The B-52B’s maximum bomb load was 43,000 pounds (19,505 kilograms). It could carry a maximum of 27 1,000-pound conventional explosive bombs. For strategic missions, the bomber carried one Mark 6 nuclear bomb, which had a yield ranging from 8 to 160 kilotons, depending on Mod, or two Mark 21 thermonuclear bombs, each with a yield of 4–5 megatons.

Boeing manufactured 744 B-52 Stratofortress bombers, with the final one rolled out at Wichita, Kansas, 22 June 1962. As of 27 September 2016, 77 B-52H bombers remain in service with the United States Air Force.

Boeing B-52B-35-BO Stratofortress 53-0394, Lucky Lady III. (LIFE Magazine via Jet Pilot Overseas)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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