While I was waiting for some parts for the new bike, I visited the New England Air Museum to get some inspiration. I met up with my friend Jason who works there, and he allowed me to see the inside of their B29. There are very few of these amazing bombers left. In fact only one, named “Fifi”, is still flying today. A little history on the “Superfortress”:
The concept for this plane was, of course, a better bomber to help the WWII effort. Requirements were more of everything: range, altitude, bomb-load and armament. Boing was given the task. Its name is a result of its predesessor, the b-17 “Flying Fortress”, first flown in 1938. By 1942, this monster was having the final touches put on it.
Here are some basic stats:
Length: 99 feet
Power: 4 Wright radials, each with 18 cylinders. Turbocharged, carburated. Each producing 2,200 horsepower.
Bomb-load: 20,000 pounds
defensive armament: 12 .50 caliber machine guns, some controlled remotely, 1 20mm cannon.
crew: 10 (pilot, copilot, navigator, engineer, bombardier, radio man, 3 gunners and gun commander)
Of the 2,766 that were produced, only 22 are preserved in museums. Luckily for me the New England Air Museum is one of them. When I first saw it, I was amazed by the sheer size of it. This is one huge plane!
Inside, there are 2 main compartments, connected by a long tube that goes over the bomb bay, through which a man could crawl. This was so that the huge bomb bay could open at high altitudes, and not de-pressurize the entire plane. Imagine crawling through here when the plane was airborn- not for the claustrophobic.
Here I am in the main rearward compartment:
The confused look on my face is because the on board generator (used to start the massive main engines) is a little v twin! It looked like a panhead. Someone was ahead of Harley in the rocker box game…
This compartment also housed the remote gun stations, and access to several of the guns themselves. It also had a little toilet, a shitload of random electrical and mechanical components, and another tunnel that lead to the tailgunners compartment. Here I am at the entrance to it:
The compartment the tailgunner lived in was barely big enough for 1 man to fit in standing up. It had all he needed to defend the rear of the plane, including a little seat he would strap into, headset jacks, gun controls, and some thick bulletproof glass.
Here is one of the tailgun sub-assemblies being made back in the 40′s:
The front compartment housed the navigator, pilots, bombadier, and engineer. It is arranged like a office, everyone sitting at their own little desk doing their jobs. I am sitting in one of the pilots seats here, and you can see some of the other stations in the background:
Looking forward, you have a giant glass bubble that gives both the pilots and the bombardier a clear view. The bombardier sits in front of, and below the pilots, right in the very nose of the plane. He has a high tech (for the time), bomb-sight he looks through, and a bomb release button he can hold and activate with his thumb. This is me looking through the scope, pretending the floor was a target far below..
I find many aspects of this plane amazing, but the one that ran through my head while I was on board was the sheer simplicity of it. Despite its enormous size, the controls are still cable operated, all with little pulleys and linkages running everywhere. While partially pressurized, it was still un-insulated. The walls are just paper thin aluminum, unlike the plush interiors on a modern airliner. The noise and cold must have been excruciating. This plane did everything we needed it to do and nothing else!
Here are a few more random b29 pics:
The famous “Fifi”, the only b29 still flying today.
There was a lot the pilots had to keep track of, gauge wise…
A .50 caliber turret
Dropping a bomb load.
Heres a video, a little campy but has some good flying shots:
More to come!