THE B-36 BOMBER

5/19/2021  

In the late 30’s, Nazi Germany was plotting their expansion and knew the United States would be a pain in their butt. They then made plans to build a bomber that could take off, bomb New York City, and return to its home base in Germany. This secret was soon discovered, and the US Army Air Force went looking for a contractor to do their own version of a long-distance, large-capacity bomber. Starting engineering in 1942, the experimental YB 36 first flew in 1946 and 384 units, with 22 variants, were constructed costing then $1 billion dollars. The US Air Force which became a separate entity in 1947 started getting their fleet of B-36’s and began training crews consisting of 15 members that were necessary for the operation of this bomber that had an ordinance capacity of 80,000 lbs. and a 10,000-mile range. It was specifically designed to carry the heavy and bulky nuclear weapons of the day and could take off from US soil, nuke a target in Russia, and be home for breakfast in the morning. It was propelled by 6 28-cylinder radial engines in a pusher configuration (engines behind the wings). After 36 hours of engine time, all 336 spark plugs had to be replaced. This magnesium behemoth with a wingspan of 230′ was a maintenance nightmare that had a bad reputation. With latter additions of 4 jet engines, of which 2 each were on the wingtips to assist takeoffs and top speed, this became the mantra of the plane: 6 turning and 4 burning. The magnesium fuselage, although lighter than aluminum, became a fuel in a crash situation. As the metal burned it became impossible to put out because the oxide within was the accelerant. Dumb. This beast flew for 10 years until the B-52 took over the role of a strategic bomber and is still used today 70 years later. This exercise in engineering defective ideas was used by the military for decades during the cold war. With only 4 B-36’s left in museums, 1 needs to go see a classic example of: WELL, THAT DIDN’T WORK VERY WELL!

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