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A Whole Month??

December 14th, 2006 · 5 Comments

While the last four weeks have not been without minor event, there has been a decided lack-of-impetus to write about any of it. Things just aren’t as interesting here as they are in other parts of the aviation blogosphere, I guess.

Not to complain, but the month has been a hard one, work-wise. Well, I suppose the more accurate way of putting that would be “getting to work-wise.” The first trip of the month I missed due to a bad sinus infection. The third trip of the month (which would have ended today) had to be scrubbed due to a seven-day bout with stomach-flu. In fact, today is the first day I’ve felt half-way decent since that began. Sure, this stuff is bound to happen to even the heartiest of human beings. But does it all have to happen within scant days of each other?

I did manage to fly two days between fits of infirmity. An overnight in Tucson, AZ that got us into the hotel just past noon on a beautiful fall day gave me the opportunity to head over to the Pima Air and Space Museum to visit with a buddy of mine who works there as an exhibit technician. He was able to finagle the keys to their newest work-in-progress, the absolutely monstrous Convair B-36 Peacemaker that currently sits in their back lot as it is being brought up to display readiness.

Now when I say big, I mean BIG. We boarded the aircraft via a climb to the top of an eight-foot stepladder that we set up in the forward part of the bomb-bay. After reaching the bomb-bay catwalk from the top of the ladder, a climb up and forward through a pressure hatch got us into the radio operator’s station of the behemoth aircraft.

My buddy Steve (left) with a couple of his PASM coworkers
in the
radio-operator’s compartment of the B-36. The entry hatch
is the
yellow-rimmed door in the lower left corner of the image.

As I walked toward the port (ship’s left) side of radio operator’s compartment and turned to face the front of the aircraft, I noticed the entrances to both the flightdeck area and the bombardier/navigator’s compartment in the nose of the aircraft.

Heading up the steps puts you into the flightdeck, while heading down puts
you into the bombardier/navigator compartment in the nose of the beast.

Of course, being the aviator that I am, I climb towards the cockpit first. It’s a bit of a squeeze (especially for a man of my girth) but I managed to shoehorn myself into the flight-engineer’s chair to get some pictures of the aircraft commander’s station.

Lots of windows. Good visibility to say the least.

An about-face put me face-to-face with one of the most amazing dispalys gauge-etry on the planet, the B-36′s flight-engineer panel.

The later-model B-36′s had ten engines. Six radial-cylinder driving
aft-facing (pusher) propellers and four jet engines. Six levers
for manifold pressure, six more for propeller RPM,
and still four more for the jet engines (not pictured).

Back down the steps and into the bombardier/navigator’s compartment.

The navigator sits at the table on the left near the nose-window,
where his charts were spread out under a sheet of plexiglass for easy viewing.
The bombardier’s station is on the right, facing several instruments
including a radar rangefinder and targeting system, which had been
removed from this aircraft.

This is the most important room on the airplane…especially during
those long Cold-War era flights.

After our interior tour, we exited the way we came in, out the hatch and down the ladder. Here are some exterior photographs of the aircraft (which had been split into two pieces for ease of movement without engines).

This is the rear fuselage section. The tube on the right of the image was
acutally used to transport crewmen between the forward compartment
and aft gunner’s station. The tube was pressurized while the
bomb-bays it traverses were not.



I’ve managed to finish another aviation-related book. As I said in my previous entry, I purchased a 1927 first-edition copy of Charles Lindbergh’s book, We. Written immediately following his trans-Atlantic solo flight, it was very quickly composed by Lindbergh himself without extensive editing or rewriting. Unfortunately, this leads to a rather glossed-over account of his early flying days where time that is surely months is written as though it passed by in mere days. The most interesting chapter of the book deals with the development of the Ryan monoplane, The Spirit of St. Louis, that carried him on his thirty-three-and-a-half hour journey across the Atlantic.

Thought the book is an interesting read altogether, I got the feeling that Lindbergh was trying very desperately to downplay the accomplishments of his career leading up to and including the trans-Atlantic flight. Unfortunately, that tendency causes him to leave out significant detail. In fact, his description of the development of the aircraft and the trans-Atlantic journey itself spans hardly more than a dozen paragraphs.

Though We is the first book to be written by Lindbergh about his aviation adventures, a more complete one is definitely his book, The Spirit of St. Louis, which was written several years later.

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5 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Colin Summers // Dec 15, 2006 at 2:33 am

    To put the book in context you should read Berg’s biography (if you haven’t already). It’s a little embarassing that it won a Pulitzer even though Mr. Berg missed two families which Lindbergh has in Germany, but that’s a minor tabloid sort of point. It’s a great laying out of Lindbergh life, from the early years in the countryside up to his fame.

  • 2 Gina // Dec 20, 2006 at 4:41 am

    Welcome back, GC! Sorry to hear you caught the stomach virus that’s going around. My aunt is an ER nurse and she said it’s the most stubborn virus she’s seen in years. I hope the Mrs. and your daughter didn’t catch it as well.

    Great photos and write-up on the B-36; thanks for sharing.

  • 3 Anonymous // Dec 20, 2006 at 5:30 am

    Thanks for the B36 photos. I love going to the Pima Air Museum and am jealous of your up close and personal tour of flying behemoth. I’ve always wanted to see one up close and personal. Great!


  • 4 GC // Dec 20, 2006 at 4:33 pm

    Oh we were all sick. In fact, daughter brought it home, gave it to my wife, and I got it from one of them.

    And to top it all off, I came down with strep AGAIN last Saturday. So here I sit, at home, on antibiotics.

    I’m not having a good month of December. Fortunately my employer is very understanding.

  • 5 Anonymous // Dec 20, 2006 at 5:11 pm

    Wow — thanks for the interior pix of the B36. I’ve only ever seen one from the outside — I flew out to the museum at the old Castle AFB near Merced in California a few years ago with someone who’d been ground engineering staff on them, and while Castle has a beautiful B36 sitting there, we weren’t allowed inside. I’m a real sucker for cockpit and crew quarters photos :-).

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