Convair B-36
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Convair B-36

The first intercontinental bomber, the Convair B-36 originated from a specification issued on 11 April 1941 which called for an aircraft with ability to carry a maximum bombload of 32659kg and, of even greater importance in view of the state of affairs at that time, to deliver 4536kg of bombs on European targets from bases in the United States. An unrefuelled range of 16093km was a prime requirement, with a maximum speed of 386-483km/h and ceiling of 10670m. Selected from four competing designs, the Consolidated Model 36 featured a pressurised fuselage, and 70.10m span wings with a root thickness of 1.83m to permit in-flight access to the six pusher engines. The aircraft was designed originally with twin fins and rudders, but by the time the XB-36 prototype was ready to be rolled out at Fort Worth, on 8 September 1945, single vertical tail surfaces had been substituted.

First flown on 8 August 1946, the XB-36 had single 2.79m diameter main wheels, also a feature of the YB-36 second prototype on which they were replaced later by the four-wheeled bogies adopted for production aircraft. In this form the aircraft was designated YB-36A and also differed from the first aircraft by introducing a raised cockpit roof. On 23 July 1943 100 aircraft were ordered but it was more than four years before the first of the 22 unarmed crew-trainer B-36A models took off on its maiden flight, on 28 August 1947. Production of the B-36 continued for almost seven years, the last example being delivered to Strategic Air Command on 14 August 1954, and the type was retired finally on 12 February 1959.

Convair B-36

 ENGINE6 x P+W R-4360, 2575kW
    Take-off weight162162 kg357508 lb
    Empty weight72051 kg158846 lb
    Wingspan70.1 m230 ft 0 in
    Length49.4 m162 ft 1 in
    Height14.3 m47 ft 11 in
    Wing area443.3 m24771.64 sq ft
    Max. speed696 km/h432 mph
    Cruise speed362 km/h225 mph
    Ceiling13700 m44950 ft
    Range w/max.fuel16000 km9942 miles
 ARMAMENT12-16 20mm machine-guns, 32600kg of bombs

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James F Miller, 12.03.2011

I was called back Aug 7 1950 got assigned to Rapid City, I had a bombsight and auto pilot MOS 514 they sent me to school for the new auto pilot on the B36. If the auto pilot did not work there was all hell to pay. The cockpit was bigger than our den. We had one bomb bay converted to photo recon. We had coal fired hot water heaters not very good, Gen. Lamay was on base and asked what we wanted. Plumbers were out the next week.
I still remember using the carrier front to back.
I was 22 going to transfer to Florida State where it was warm, but never happened, they sent me to Endland, doing nothing at Warrington AFB except dancing with the local girls at the NCO club.

Claude Thomas, 11.03.2011

Reading the above comments sure brings back memories of 1954-1955 while stationed at Ellsworth. There is nothing in this world like the sound of 6 4360 engines.. Whow what a winter up there and here I had my choice to either Limestone or Ellsworth...This old Florida boy chose wrong

Bob Harding, 24.02.2011

I was in Amarillo, Texas in 1957 going thru tech school on the F86-D and F100 on Armed Forces Day and was downtown Amarillo before the Air Show at the base that afternoon. I was inside a store when there was a terrible noise and the building started shaking. I went outside on Polk Street and there was a B-36-D coming down the street (in the air of course) just above the buildings doing a fly-by before landing for the show. I've always been in awe of the B-36 because of the six 4360 engines and the four jets. The sound was unmistakable. Congrats to all of you who that worked on or flew them.

STEVE COYCAULT, SR., 17.02.2011


M. D. Weltha, 03.02.2011

This comes from a B-36 Radio/ECM operator and gunner, with 1,400 hours on the B-36 Peacemaker, out of Carswell AFB, Ft. Worth, TX etc, from 1952 to 1956. The following reports the B-36’s role in ending the Korean War, fighter interceptions when penetrating the DEW line at high altitude, at night—and B-36 safety and reliability.


It is my understanding President Eisenhower used the power of the B-36 to end the Korean War. Ike told the Russians to end the war within 30 days, or he was not ordering the B-36s to turn around and not nuclear bomb Russia. 20 days passed with no response from the Russians. Ike sent a final message saying only 10 days remained. The Russians then told the N. Koreans to stop the war, which they did.

Several B-36 select flight crews no doubt remember being called back from such missions—aimed at Russia from nearly all directions. I was a 19 year old at the time and vividly remember receiving and decoding such messages—which were then further decoded by the Aircraft Commander, before turning back. I was assigned to the crew just after it had dropped the first H bomb from a B-36. Each crew had two radio/ECM operators. I was the junior operator at that time--holding the B-36 in awe!

That drop changed the procedure for dropping H bombs from a B-36. The original procedure was to drop the bomb and dive to gain speed and out run the shock wave. Unfortunately, the shock wave came within a half mile of the plane, which was much too close. The procedure was changed to making a 60 degree bank, called a shotgun bank, to turn away from the shock wave. Such a bank was a memorable experience, if not terrifying. The plane shook and bucked but always made it through the turn. Each plane could only make a very small number of such turns, due to stress limitations.


While penetrating the Defense Early Warning (DEW) line coming south from Canada at night, U. S. fighters would ‘intercept’ us and then fly up very close behind our engines, to what I thought was much too close for comfort—and besides they were armed with their guns & rockets pointed at us—while all 16 of our 20 mm canons had to be in the stowed position--harmless. So I flashed the fighters with a powerful lamp to deter them, which it did. But the next thing I heard on the intercom was the pilots asking what the hell was that?
Years later, I met and visited with a pilot of one of those fighters. He nearly punched me when I told him what I had done—and why. He said that for them to get credit for an intercept, which was important to them, they had to record the “itty bitty” tail number on the B-36. To do so, they had to fly up close, fighting the contrails and severe B-36 turbulence, to read the number. The flashing evidently prevented them from doing so—which angered them.

To retaliate, they backed off and then came roaring up from behind and underneath--and climbed directly in front of the nose of the B-36--and hit the after burners on their F-94. This appeared as sudden explosions and startled our pilots, of course—who did not know what I had done. The gunners often did the same thing—sometimes just to see what was out there. The powerful lamps were routinely used to scan the engines and turrets etc. during night flights.


Despite engine power losses, terrible thunder storms, run-away props, dust storms, atomic radiation, fighters, fires and shortage of fuel etc., we always landed safely, someplace (such as at Lambert Airport in St. Louis)—in the very large and safe—B-36 Peacemaker!

While staying overnight waiting for fuel at Lambert, I drew the short straw and had to stay up all night guarding the airplane. Along with listening to the friendly cackle of the airline pilots about a B-36 being there, I stood within about 200 feet of the runway, where the new McDonald, twin-engine, F-101 VooDoo took off. I thought it had blown up on take-off, but it kept going. I then realized the pilot had ignited the after burners, about 250 feet from me. Will never forget that experience—or when ferrying an H-Bomb and landing short and sliding off the slippery runway at Loring AFB in Maine. But that’s another story, to be told later, if at all.

Bill Campbell, M.D., 01.02.2011

In the '40s and '50s I lived north of Topeka, Kansas on an alfalfa-dairy farm and have fond memories of the aircraft passing over-head out of Forbes Airforce Base. Everyday in the late '40s, four or five B-29s would pass over-head, and I would rush outside and lay in the lawn and look up at the beautiful aircraft. One day in the early '50s, Mom ran out of the house letting me know something different was coming. All the windows and glassware in the house was rattling, and we could hear a drone that no other plane could match. Suddenly from the south came this most beautiful silver bird directly over our home and at much lower altitude than the B-29s. What a sight! Later, I learned this was a B-36. This memory I will cherish forever and never forget! Later in Scouting, our troop toured Forbes AFB, and we were allowed to walk through a B-36. There is one in Omaha, Nebraska, at the SAC Museum, which I saw recently. That trip brought back wonderful memories. This plane should make us all so very proud of the USAF and our country! Bill Campbell,M.D.

Fausto, 31.01.2011

As a young 2nd Lt. fresh out of flight school at mather AFB. Ca. in 1953 I was assigned to the 75th Bomb Wing Limestone AFB, Maine. Later renamed Loring AFB. Had to wait a period of time before Top Secret Clearance was completed. By then needed two months flight time. was put on crew, and took off on a Thursday night about 23:00. Landed 29hrs 50 mins later so for one day of my life I wasn't any closer than 25,000 feet from the ground. Not too sure just what I had gotten myself into at that point. Our lead Crew would fly a 25 hour mission once a week for about 18 months. Have close to 3000 hours in " The Aluminum Overcast" Would really love to take one more flight just for old times sake. And those were the good old days??? God Bless all you old 36ers.

loomas j marshall, 29.01.2011

I started my career on the Big Bird at Walker AFB 39th Engineering section on 52-2819 with TSGT Billy Graves. The 36 was my first airplane ride ever, having been raised on the Plains of Texas near Amarillo.(Borger)Worked on the A/C for 5 years with 1 year at Travis AFB on the RB's. Retired in 1979 as a flt eng on C-141s at Norton AFB Ca.

J D Ziegler, 25.01.2011

Crew S-22 from Carswell AFB, TX flew the last B-36 for the annual air show at Egland AFB Fla. We dropped 128 bombs from an altitude of about 2k' (was susposed to load 132 max, but in those days the crew did that work themselves & we got tired) We tied an AF news photographer on the IFI platform and he took movies of the boomb drop in trail...wish I had a copy of that. What a great crew and what a great acft. A part of the James Stewart movie "SAC" was filmed out side our sqdn hanger (492nd Bomb Sqdn, Ft. Worth TX.

Tom Drodge, 24.01.2011

I am trying to find an email for Robert E. Jones. The email given doesn.t work. I am interested in obtaining some information on the B-36s that flew over the Atlantic Ocean from the Azores the night of Mar. 18th, 1953. Anyone with any information would be greatly appreciated.

Brad Hoke, 22.01.2011

My '53-55 assignment was as Adjutant of the 766th Aircraft Control & Warning Squadron, Limestone, ME. We were ADC, of course, but being contiguous to then-Limestone AFB we drew supplies, medical, and administrative services there. Our BOQ was seven miles from their flight line, and the tails sticking up over the scruffy tree line in between were all we could see of the B-36s. But hearing those big birds during takeoff, with all six pushers at full throttle and the JATO going, was absolutely no problem. The first jets' arrival, while exciting, was the beginning of the end of a very special and unforgettable era, not unlike the passing of steam locomotives.

Fred Daugherty, 20.01.2011

the first time I saw a B-36 was at El Centro NAF at air show.I might have been 12..I had my hands all over it and then it took off..As it flew over I thought ..My hand prints are on the beautiful aircraft.!

lesly chenery, 17.01.2011

B36 s of sac used to land and take off from mildenhall air base they used to rattle windows as they came over they often came over our school yard 1954

Jerry Pattison, 18.12.2010

I was stationed at Ellsworth AFB, Rapid City, in 1954-55. I performed flight line maintenance on ECM equipment. The 28th Wing at Ellsworth had RB-36 aircraft, different from the bomber version. Our aircraft had 4 ECM stations, one in the radio compartment, and 3 in the aft compartment. I was able to fly a couple of times while on flight duty. Flight duty was rotated within ground crews. On one flight out of Guam, we landed with 3 reciprocals feathered. Was an interesting landing! We also flew 3 aircraft to the Philippines, then over Thailand, in formation! (The B-36 almost never flew in formation). This was a "show of force" for whatever government was in power at the time.

Someone in this forum mentioned Rechy-Tech folks. I could probably dig up some names of those who were at Ellsworth, if there is an interest. I am not aware of any Rechy-Tech reunions.

Mert Rima, we missed you at this year's reunion!!

Buck Grim, 15.12.2010

Would like to know if any flight engineers manuals are available for this A/C??

Bert Fletcher, 11.12.2010

I was stationed at Sheppard AFB, TX from January through July 1956. One month of solid KP and 6 months of aircraft maintenance training plus KP. I channelled through as a twin-engine recip mechanic, 43151A. There was a pretty tired looking B-36 there the whole time for training. I always wondered if it eventually flew out by 1958 or 59, or did they scrap it right there. Anybody know?

Pat Bailey, 05.12.2010

I grew up in Las Vegas, and there were several 36s stationed at Nellis AFB. All the local scout troops would be invited at least once each year to a big air show, with the Thunderbirds putting on a great show (I was in the Navy for my 32 years of military service, so I'm a bit partial to the Blue Angels, but I grew up with the T-Birds).

I'd bypass seeing the fighters and spend all my time around the 36s, wondering just how they could get something that huge off the ground.

Someone earlier mentioned the unmistakable drone of a B-36 at altitude and at speed. Many's the time I'd be walking home from school in Vegas and hear it and smile!

I can't forget about the one time in the middle 1950s, a B36 took off from Nellis and couldn't gain much altitude. It had to circle the city and land to the north. It passed directly over my grandmother's house at about 600 feet AGL. The noise was unbelievable, but reassuring. The sound of freedom. Yep.

Bill Witt, 02.12.2010

After A&E school at Sheppard AFB and B-36 Electrian school at Chanute AFB, I was assigned as a gunner for two years at Travis AFB in RB-36s. Spent about 900 hours in the airplane enjoying the sound of the engines and being part of an outstanding crew. SAC used to hold alert drills that took about 24 hours to get the airplane ready and we never knew whether the alert was real or not. We had survival training at Stead AFB in the winter time and about froze and starved for nine days up in the Sierra. I was privledged to climb out to the No. 1 engine in flight one time to replace a fuse in the electrical panel. VERY noisy! Of course, my favorite movie is "Stragic Air Command". I still stand up when Curtis LeMay appears on the screen (well maybe.....)

Gerald D Wiggs, 28.11.2010

I was an A&E instructor at Sheppard AFB from 1951 to whenever the school was disband. I then taught in A&E General School until I was discharged in Octobe 1954. I started in Phase 0ne which was familiarization of the aircraft and later went to props,engines,electrical and hydraulics..It was one fascinating aircraft. I loved the lumbering sound of the R4360 s.

Jim Schierholz, 24.11.2010

I went to A&E school at Shepard AFB, left there in 1952 and went to Fairchild in Spokane WA. While there I was an A&E mechanic with the 99 PMS until December 1955. I never did fly in one but did my share of inspection and maintenance work. I seem to remember that the tunnel that ran from the aft compartment to the camera compartment was only 30 to 36 inches and about 80 feet long, we had one fella that would go to the middle to sleep one off. He usually came out after we thumped the side of the tube in the bomb bay, he was always a little unhappy about that. I was one of the few that could wiggle my 190 lb 73 inch body thru the struts that were forward of the outboard recip engines. There's a fuel line in there that had to looked at. As far as servicing engines in flight,, I don't think so, unless it was something very minor, most of the engine was accessed from outside of the wing by removing panels. After doing inspections and maintenance for 3 years there wasn't any parts that I didn't have a good acquaintance with. I always look back at those years with good memories especially about meeting my wife to be. Had her for 52 years until the big 'C' got to her.

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