The Convair B-36 Peacemaker was the largest bomber ever built when it first flew in 1946. It served as America's airborne nuclear deterrence in the early 1950's. It was capable of carrying the Mark 17 atomic bomb, which was 24 and 1/2 feet long and weighed an incredible 21 tons. It was carried in the bomb bay and even the B-36 could carry only one of these formidable weapons.
The design of the B-36 began during World War II and was originally intended to allow America to bomb Germany from bases inside America, should England fall into enemy occupation. To this end, the B-36 had a range of over 7,500 miles.
The wing span of the B-36 is 230 feet and mounted on these wings are six propeller engines and four turbojet engines. This led to the phrase " six turning and four burning " used by the aircrews who flew the Peacemaker. The B-36 carried a crew of 16 (22 in the reconnaissance version), who took turns flying the aircraft on its long missions.
Crew members traveled through the fuselage by means of a long narrow tunnel on a creeper trolley similar to ones used by auto mechanics. While one of the most powerful bombers ever built, the Peacemaker never once fired a shot in anger throughout its service history.
There were 383 total B-36 bombers built at an average cost of $3,776,000 each. The first flight of the B-36 was on August 8, 1945 at Fort Worth, Texas. The longest recorded B-36 flight lasted 51 hours and 20 minutes, non-stop and without being refueled. The last flight of a B-36 was in April, 1959.
The aircraft on display at Castle Air Museum is one of only four B-36 aircraft remaining and the only reconnaissance version. It served with the 28th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing at Rapid City Air Force Base, South Dakota (Ellsworth AFB after June 1953) from 1952 to 1957. In 1957, it was sent to Chanute Air Force Base, Illinois. There it served as a ground instructional airframe and finally was part of Chanute's Air Museum. It was brought to Castle in 167 pieces, requiring 11 flatbed railway cars to move it. It took the efforts of dozens of volunteers and two and a half years of work to reassemble and paint the B-36.
By kjfitz @ 2006-04-29 18:41:28