Boeing B-29 Superfortress
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Boeing B-29 Superfortress

The outbreak of war in Europe in 1939 made it essential that USAAC planners should at least talk about long-range bomber projects, and the initial identification of such was VHB (very heavy bomber). When it seemed likely that such an aircraft might have to be deployed over the vast reaches of the Pacific Ocean the identification VLR (very long-range) seemed more apt, and it was the VLR project which General Henry H. ('Hap') Arnold, head of the USAAC, got under way at the beginning of 1940.

Requests for proposals were sent to five US aircraft manufacturers on 29 January 1940: in due course design studies were submitted by Boeing, Consolidated, Douglas and Lockheed, these being allocated the respective designations XB-29, XB-32, XB-31 and XB-30. Douglas and Lockheed subsequently withdrew from the competition, and on 6 September 1940 contracts were awarded to Boeing and Consolidated (later Convair) for the construction and development of two (later three) prototypes of their respective designs. Convair's XB-32 Dominator was the first to fly, on 7 September 1942, but extensive development delayed its entry into service.

Boeing, because of the company's foresight, was much further along the design road in 1940, and being able to convince the USAAC that it would have production aircraft available within two or three years, had received orders for more than 1,500 before a prototype was flown. The reason for the advanced design state of Boeing's proposal was due to the fact that as early as 1938 the company had offered to the USAAC its ideas for an improved B-17, with a pressurised cabin to make high-altitude operations less demanding on the crew. While there was then no requirement for such an aircraft, the US Army encouraged Boeing to keep the design updated to meet the changing conditions of war. This was reflected by designs identified as Models 316, 322, 333, 334 and 341. The design for the XB-29 was a development of the Model 341, designated Model 345, and the first of the prototypes made its maiden flight on 21 September 1942.

The USAAC's specification had called for a speed of 644km/h, so the XB-29 had a high aspect ratio cantilever monoplane wing mid-set on the circular-section fuselage. Because such a wing would entail a high landing speed, the wide-span trailing-edge flaps were of the Fowler type which effectively increased wing area by almost 20%, thus allowing a landing to be made at lower speed. Electrically retractable tricycle landing gear was provided and, as originally proposed by Boeing, pressurised accommodation was included for the flight crew. In addition, a second pressurised compartment just aft of the wing gave accommodation to crew members who, in the third XB-29 and production aircraft, sighted defensive gun turrets from adjacent blister windows. The crew and aft compartments were connected by a crawl-tunnel which passed over the fore and aft bomb bays. The tail gunner was accommodated in a pressurised compartment, but this was isolated from the other crew positions. The powerplant consisted of four Wright R-3350 Cyclone twin-row radial engines, each with two General Electric turbochargers mounted one in each side of the engine nacelle.

Boeing B-29 Superfortress

Prototype production was followed by 14 YB-29 service test aircraft, the first of these flying on 26 June 1943. Deliveries of YB-29s began almost immediately to the 58th Very Heavy Bombardment Wing (VHBW), a unit which had been established on 1 June in advance of the first flight. B-29 production was the most diverse aircraft manufacturing project undertaken in the USA during World War II, with literally thousands of sub-contractors supplying components or assemblies to the four main production plants: Boeing at Renton and Wichita; Bell at Marietta, Georgia; and Martin at Omaha, Nebraska.

B-29 production totalled 1,644 from Boeing's Wichita plant, with 668 built by Bell and 536 by Martin. The Renton plant produced only the B-29A variant, with slightly increased span and changes in fuel capacity and armament: production continued until May 1946 and totalled 1,122 aircraft.

The designation B-29B related to 311 of the aircraft built by Bell. These were reduced in weight by removal of all defensive armament except for the tail guns, which were then unmanned, being aimed and fired automatically by an AN/APG-15B radar fire-control system. The production total of nearly 4,000 B-29s of all versions must be regarded as very large, having regard to their size and cost, and it is not surprising that they saw a wide variety of employment in the post-war years, operating under several designations. A number of B-29s were used operationally during the Korean War.

Boeing B-29 SuperfortressA three-view drawing (1000 x 825)

 ENGINE4 x Wright R-3350-23-23A/-41 Cyclone 18, 1641kW
    Take-off weight56245 kg124000 lb
    Empty weight31815 kg70140 lb
    Wingspan43.05 m141 ft 3 in
    Length30.18 m99 ft 0 in
    Height9.02 m30 ft 7 in
    Wing area161.27 m21735.89 sq ft
    Max. speed576 km/h358 mph
    Cruise speed370 km/h230 mph
    Ceiling9710 m31850 ft
    Range w/max.fuel5230 km3250 miles
    Range w/max.payload2880 km1790 miles
 ARMAMENT11 x 12.7mm machine-guns, 9000kg of bombs

Boeing B-29 Superfortress

Comments1-20 21-40 41-60 61-80
Leo Rudnicki, 09.08.2009

34 inches in diameter and roughly 35 feet long starting from the fuselage sta. before the front upper sighting blister to a tad before the rear upper sighting blister.

Bill Bean, 09.08.2009

I would like to know the diameter and length of the pressurized tunnel between the nose section and the mid section or wher to find the information

carl posey, 30.12.2008

I'm researching a story on B-29s in Korea for AIR & SPACE/SMITHSONIAN magazine, and would like to interview some of the participants. Also interested in talking to Silverplate crews from WWII and the Korean action. Telephone 703-683-4773, e-mail Thanks & happy landings. cp

BOB SEYMOUR, 05.08.2008

I had been a twin advanced instructor until Dec. 1944 when they decided they didn't need us any more. Then went to learn how to fly B-24 and then they asked if I would like to try B-29. Silly question! What a great airplane and loved to fly it. What a pleasure sitting at 20K feet without oxygen!! Got to Tinian just in time for the end of the war. The only mission I flew was the Power Display over Tokyo bay at the signing of the surrender on the Battleship Missouri.

Long live FIFI!!

Willard L. Matteson, 14.07.2008

I was a B-29 radio operator at Pyote, TX from Apr-Nov '45 We were on our last training flight when the war ended on Aug 14. Engine fires were quite common during training. The #3 engine on one of our flights caught fire when we were about an hour out from the base. The pilots and flight engineer managed to extinguish it and feather the prop so we got back to base OK. Kinda scary, though. My pilot was 1st Lieutenant Howard Campbell, a first-rate pilot and an A-1 officer in every respect. He was from Ohio and I would like to get in touch with him. If anyone knows him please contact me by e-mail or phone (760-942- 0223)

Charles G. Chauncey, 14.05.2008

There were 11 flight crewman: Bombardier, 2 Pilots, Flight Engineer, Navigator, Radio Operator, 3 Gunners, Radar Operator, and Tail Gunner. Our plane, a Wichita B-29, flew 51 bombing mission and 1 POW supply mission with never an abort. Of our 35 missions our crew flew 32 of them, the balance was flown by other crews. Our Ground Crew Chief received the Legion of Merit after its 50 mission with no aborts.

Mike Wourms, 11.05.2008

My Dad is wondering if there is any information about the experimental B-45's. It was a two man aircraft, two jet engines made around 1950 or 1952.

FRANK D HEROLD, 01.05.2008

I have quite a few hours in B29's during the Korean Conflick. The good old days.

Walter Bringsauf, 29.03.2008

During the Korean War there were quite a few B-29s in use. On Okinawa we had the 19th, 22nd, 98th and 307th Bomb Grps.
The 19th alone had over 30 planes in 3 Squadrons. At one time we had a max effort that put up 100 planes from our base at Kadena.

Sam Paterson, 29.02.2008

The Superfortress is cool despite frequent engine fires

Joseph H. Peek, 30.04.2007

I was raised in Tucson, AZ and lived about 3 miles from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. My uncle visited us from Phoenix, AZ one day and saw the China Berry trees trimmed to stub condition for better yard appearance. He made a comment concerning the stubby limbs and about that time a B-29 came low over the house and mom pointed up as if to blame the plane for the trim job on the trees. The bird was very loud with the Wright 3350s beating out their monster noise. It was thrilling to see for a young lad in 4th or 5th grade around 1945. Call me 404-325-4866

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