Originally Posted by Top_Gunn
B-50? Revised B-29, with better wing, engines, and landing gear. The Russians copied the B-29 with a different airfoil, basing the copy on B-29s that had gone astray and landed in the USSR. The B-50 ended its career as a hurricane hunter and tanker, the B-29 finished in recon, I think.
You nailed it, Top_Gunn; the B-50 it is. Great job! And, you are now up. The B-50 performed well in the years after WWII; but is almost forgotten today. Thanks; Ernie P.
Question: What warbird do I describe?
(1) This aircraft was a revised version of an earlier aircraft, which had a history of some worrisome problems.
(2) Nevertheless, both this aircraft and it’s predecessor had long service lives; although not necessarily in their original role.
(3) The predecessor was famously copied by another country.
(4) This aircraft had an interesting nickname, inspired by a comic character.
(5) Several hundred were produced.
Answer: The B-50 Superfortress
The Boeing B-50 Superfortress
strategic bomber was a post–World War II
revision of the Boeing B-29 Superfortress
, fitted with more powerful Pratt & Whitney R-4360 radial engines
, stronger structure, a taller fin, and other improvements. It was the last piston-engined bomber designed by Boeing
for the United States Air Force
. Not as well known as its direct predecessor, the B-50 was in USAF service for nearly 20 years.
After its primary service with SAC ended, B-50 airframes were modified into aerial tankers for Tactical Air Command
(KB-50) and as weather reconnaissance aircraft (WB-50) for the Air Weather Service
. Both the tanker and hurricane hunter versions were retired in March 1965 due to metal fatigue
and corrosion found in the wreckage of KB-50J, 48-065
, which crashed on 14 October 1964.
Development of an improved B-29 started in 1944, with the desire to replace the unreliable Wright R-3350
engines with the more powerful four-row, 28-cylinder Pratt & Whitney R-4360
Wasp-Major radial engine
A B-29A-5-BN (serial number
42-93845) was modified by Pratt & Whitney
as a testbed for the installation of the R-4360 in the B-29, with four 3,000 hp
) R-4360-33s replacing the 2,200 hp (1,600 kW) R-3350s. The modified aircraft, designated XB-44 Superfortress, first flew in May 1945. The planned Wasp-Major powered bomber, the B-29D, was to incorporate considerable changes in addition to the engine installation tested in the B-44. The use of a new alloy of aluminum
, 75-S rather than the existing 24ST, gave a wing that was both stronger and lighter, while the undercarriage was strengthened to allow the aircraft to operate at weights of up to 40,000 lb (18,000 kg) greater than the B-29. A larger vertical fin and rudder (which could fold to allow the aircraft to fit into existing hangars) and enlarged flaps were provided to deal with the increased weight. Armament was similar to that of the B-29, with two bomb bays carrying 20,000 lb (9,100 kg) of bombs, and a further 8,000 lb (3,600 kg) externally. Defensive armament was 13 × .50 in (12.7 mm) machine guns (or 12 machine guns and one 20 mm cannon) in five turrets.
First flying in May 1945, the sole XB-44 proved 50–60 mph (80–97 km/h) faster than the standard B-29. (Available sources do not indicate how much of this increased speed was due to differing aircraft weight or to deleted armament.)
Revisions to the B-50 (from its predecessor B-29) would boost top speed to just under 400 mph (644 km/h). Changes included:
Redesigned engine nacelles and engine mounts
Enlarged vertical tail and rudder (to maintain adequate yaw control during engine-out conditions)
Reinforced wing structure (required due to increased engine mass, larger gyroscopic forces from larger propellers, greater fuel load, and revised landing gear loading)
Revised routing for engine gases (cooling, intake, exhaust and intercooler ducts; also oil lines)
Upgraded remote turret fire-control equipment
Landing gear strengthened and takeoff weight increased from 133,500 lb / 60,555 kg to 173,000 lb / 78,471 kg
Increased fuel capacity with underwing fuel tanks being added.
Improvements to flight control systems (the B-29 was difficult to fly; with increased weights the B-50 would have been more so).
Nose wheel steering rather than a castering nose wheel as on the B-29
Redesigned with a large upper fuselage grafted on, the B-50 design would form the basis for the Boeing 377
series of airliners and C-97
military transports, with 816 of the KC-97 built. The B-29 and B-50 were phased out with introduction of the jet-powered B-47 Stratojet. The B-50 was nicknamed "Andy Gump
" because the redesigned engine nacelles reminded aircrew of the chinless newspaper comic character popular at the time.