B-29 BOMBER—ENGINNERING MARVAL

The information for this blog was taken from the following source:  “History of the 504th Bomb Group (IV) in WW II” by Mr. Fiske Hanley, Historian, 504th Bomb Group, Copyright 1992.

We have often heard that necessity is the mother of invention and during World War II our country desperately needed a long range all-weather bomber that could carry payloads from islands in the Pacific to Japan, and back.  The B-17 bomber (Flying Fortress), introduced in 1938, was used primarily during daylight hours for missions in Western Europe, specifically Germany.  It was perfectly adequate for medium range sorties but did not have the range or the carrying capacity required for the Pacific Theater.   The B-29 was a logical evolution of the four-engine B-17.   This new bomber required greater technology such as: more powerful engines, heavy armament, larger bomb loads and considerably higher altitude capabilities.  The Boeing B-29 Superfortress was to WWII as the B-52 was to Viet Nam.  The first flight was 21 September 1942 and was piloted by Boeing’s Chief Test Pilot Eddie Allen.  Even with its existing problems, the plane was an engineering marvel for its time.  The photograph below will show the configuration.

                               

 

 Now let us look at the specifications for this “flying machine”.

  • Power by four, eighteen cylinder Curtiss Wright R-3350 engines, each developing 2,200 HP. (NOTE:  The engines ran very hot and used considerably more aviation fuel than expected.  Frequent fires occurred due to the second row of nine cylinders located behind the first row of nine.)  For high altitude operation General Electric B-11 turbochargers were installed.
  • Wingspan:  141 Feet-3 Inches
  • Length:  99 Feet from nose to tail.
  • Height: 27 Feet-9 Inches
  • Design payload: 120,000 pounds, gross take-off weight.
  • Maximum Overload Weight: 135,000 pounds
  • Fuel capacity: 9,363 gallons (NOTE: For some reason a residual of 213 gallons disappeared into the structure and was not usable.)
  • 500 gallon bomb-bay fuel tanks could be carried in lieu of bombs for extra long missions and were used for day-light precision attacks.
  • Installed with AN/APQ-14 radar which proved very accurate for mine placement.  This radar was much better than the Norden Bombsight and provided all-weather capability.
  • Operational range:  With a payload of 20,000 pounds, 3,250 miles.
  • Propellers:  Hamilton Standard Hydromatic, oil operated.
  • Bomb doors were screw-jack operated.
  • Armament: Remote controlled General Electric guns consisting of 12 50-caliber and 1 20 mm cannon                                   
  • Five gun-turrets were provided
  • Crew: Twelve
  • Number built:  3,970
  • Unit costs: $639,188
  • Service ceiling: 40,000 Feet
  • Maximum speed: 350 MPH

Of course we all realize the evolution and development of aircraft (bombers and fighters) was greatly accelerated by the advent of WWII.  We actually went into WWII with some bi-wing, single seat fighters.  The B-29 indicates what Americans can do when there is a need and when we really put our minds and work ethic to it.

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UFO SCARE

December 27, 2011


UFO SCARE

The following text in italics was taken from a publication detailing the “HISTORY OF THE 504TH BOMB GROUP (VH)”.   It was written by Mr. Harold Fairweather.  Mr. Fairweather was a bombardier in the Reed crew, stationed on Tinian in the South Pacific.  Tinian, if you remember your history, was the atoll from which the “Enola Gay” departed that fateful day to drop “the bomb” on Japan.

I am one of those “hard-nosed” individuals who would believe in UFOs and “little green men” if you stood them in front of me.  I know there are sightings that truly defy logic but, in my opinion, most could be fully explained if we only took the time and applied scientific principals and the necessary effort.  On the other hand, some sightings are really tough to dismiss.  The one given below is an actual account from a B-29 crew-member while returning from a mission to mine the harbor of Genzan, Korea.  Take a look.

Back in the days of Tinian, we had never heard of the expression UFO.  I became a believer one night as we returned from what I think was one of the longest missions ever flown.  On the night of 10 August 1945, the day after the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, the Reed crew was scheduled to mine the harbor of Genzan, located in the most northern corner of Korea. 

The documented flight time of the mission, according to AAF Form #1A was 18:05 hours.  The only relief to a long and boring trip came when we checked in with a submarine stationed somewhere in the Sea of Japan.

We dropped our mines and turned homeward on a course that brought us back over the center of Japan.  I was amazed that no interest was shown in our flight by either the Japanese air force or the antiaircraft batteries.  It was difficult for me to believe we were on a combat mission.  As we crossed Japan, the Pacific coastline began to appear, and to the right was located all crew members favorite town, Hammantsu. Now, why couldn’t Colonel Martin have sent our crew there for all thirty-five missions?

It was then, that I noticed a very bright light approaching us from below and closing at an enormous speed, faster than anything I had ever seen before.  It changed to a on its new course without a hint of slowing its speed. (The sentence structure is a little shaky here but I have written the text as given in Mr. Fairweather’s account. ) 

I sat there thinking about this “thing” for twenty minutes or so trying to decide if I was brave enough to tell the crew what I’d seen, at the risk of being toosed [sic] out as a raving lunatic.

Just when I had made up my mind to tell them, Captain Reed remarked over the intercom that about twenty minutes ago he had observed the fastest moving light that he had ever seen streaking by our left wing.  I didn’t say a word.  I became a believer in UFO’s at that moment.

I have no earthly idea as to what Mr.Fairweather nor Captain Reed saw but on a quite night, no turbulence, no appreciable cloud cover, no antiaircraft guns to divert your attention it must have been something extraordinary.  I am a rated pilot and at one time owned a Piper Arrow IV.  Trust me on this one, you get used to things you can’t explain, at the time, but most are atmospheric in nature.  I’m not too sure this account fits that particular description.  Maybe we will know some day.  “THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE”.

THE BEST ENGINEERING MOVIES

December 22, 2011


THE BEST ENGINEERING MOVIES

My wife and I love a good movie although we have some differences when defining the word “good”.  She generally leans towards spy vs. spy thrillers and light-hearted movies involving interpersonal relationships; i.e. “chick-flicks”.  I like more Si-Fi and action-filled yarns involving mechanical equipment and battlefield scenes.  I will purchase a ticket to a grade “B” movie just to see the animation and computer graphics.  I am absolutely amazed at the processes that must be involved in making a movie such as “Transformers”.  Hour upon hour of computer work necessary to bring about this type of movie to the “big screen”.  How the actors interact with the animation is truly fascinating to me.  With this being the case, what do you think are the very best “engineering” movies?  The ones that demonstrate equipment designs having come about due to significant engineering effort and program management planning.  Given below is my list.

  • “Minority Report”
  • “The Right Stuff”
  • “October Sky”
  • “Apollo 13”
  • “Transformers”
  • “Iron Man”
  • “Terminator”
  • “Star Wars”
  • “Flight of the Phoenix”
  • “Alien”
  • “Mission Impossible”
  • “2001-A Space Odyssey”
  • “James Bond”
  • “District 9”
  • “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”
  • “Back to the Future”
  • “ET”
  • “The Day the Earth Stood Still”
  • “The Matrix”
  • “Blade Runner”
  • “Cowboys and Aliens”

I’m sure you can add several I have forgotten or probably not seen.  Having five grandchildren, I also get a generous “dose” of kid-type animated movies that are just as impressive as the ones listed above.   The hardware and software needed to provide content is tremendously impressive.  If you have the time, make your own list.


ENGINEERING TRENDS FOR 2012 AND BEYOND

It’s been an interesting year and one which will not be soon forgotten.  I definitely feel actions taken, or not taken, have provided the groundwork for 2012 to be a pivotal year in our nation’s history.  I also feel there have been significant engineering activities that will drive us to much greater technical accomplishments next year and years beyond.  On one hand, 2012 could be a rough ride for those of us who work for a living and yet engineering developments and scientific discoveries could possibly generate thousands, if not millions, of jobs.  I will indicate what I feel are this year’s most important secular stories AND this years most important engineering advancements.   I think you will find significant differences in tone and optimism.  Here goes:

WORLD STAGE:

  • Leaving Iraq—The good news, we are out.  The bad news, all of our returning Vets will need jobs and those jobs are not necessarily waiting their return.  The cost of the war in human capital was tremendously devastating but, it’s over.
  • Death of Osama Bin Laden—Bin Laden was the “face” of terrorism for the United States.  His death was a necessary event for us to move on.
  • Japanese Earthquake and subsequent tsunami—This event was absolutely devastating to the Tohoku area of Japan and the Fukushima Nuclear power plant.  The effects will be lasting for decades to come.
  • Fall of Joe Paterno and Penn State—Even though Mr. Paterno was seemingly a bystander in the events leading up to his resignation, the damage to Penn State and the educational system will remain for quite some time.   Students, by necessity, have become much more suspicious of authority in general but this event heightens their suspicions.
  • Blago trial—Illinois just can’t seem to catch a break.  The past two governors have been indicted and will serve time for basic greed and other misdeeds.  (Must be the water!)
  • Casey Anthony trial—This proves you can keep your mouth shut and get away with just about anything.
  • GOP hopefuls and their run for the White House—A modern mess. There must be a better way to achieve the nomination.  The political slander is shameful.
  • $15 Trillion US debt
  • Financial difficulties in Europe and with the “euro”
  • Arab “spring” – As a results of various “social networks”, people in the Middle-East are finding out what they are missing.
  • Death of Moammar Gadhafi—His death certainly marks a turning point for Libya
  • Fall of Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak
  • A remarkably ineffective US Congress—Does anyone really know how these folks spend their time?
  • A President who refuses to engage and lead
  • Saying goodbye to our manned space flight effort—A huge mistake on our part and one in which we will regret for decades to come.
  • Residential housing “meltdown”—A well officiated game in the NFL has more oversight than given to “Freddie” and “Fanny”.  Another shameful episode.
  • 9.2% unemployment
  • Discovery of largest black hole in the known universe
  • “Earth-like” planets “
  • Death of Kim Jong-Il

I am sure I have missed a few but these events will have lasting effects upon the United States and other countries of the world.  

 Now, let’s take a look at those engineering and scientific accomplishments that WILL change our lives for the better.  In my opinion, these will alter how we live, the products we use and our ability to pull ourselves from the financial morass we are in.  Here is my list:

ENGINEERING AND SCIENTIFIC

  • Launch of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner—80% of this remarkable commercial airplane is assembled using composite materials.  These strong but lightweight materials provide a 20% improvement in fuel economy.  This product demonstrates what is possible with other products using composites and how “thinking big” can make a difference.
  • “I” devices—I-phone, I-pad, Apple computers, all give us designs that complement our lives and (again ) demonstrate what can be accomplished with vision and good old fashioned hard work.
  • Going “green”—Efforts to conserve will be with us for the foreseeable future and should be.   As a society, we need to recognize that our very existence results from the ecology around us.
  • RFID technology—A tremendously important method of controlling and documenting “stuff”.  A remarkably fast-moving technology.
  • Application (apps) software for “smart” devices—The possibilities are endless.
  • Adhesives—More and more, adhesives are replacing traditional methods of fastening components together.  In many instances, nuts, bolts, weldments, etc can be replaced with lower cost adhesives.
  • Large Hadron Collider—This device, located at CERN, can possibly provide the answers to how our universe came to be.  The search for the “god” particle (Higgs Boson) is underway at this time.
  • NASA Kepler Telescope—A remarkable engineering feat!  Kepler is discovering worlds we only imagined a few years ago. 
  • NANO technology—NANO technology promises to improve noninvesative medical procedures and provide doctors with information on a micro level.  Other uses are just as exciting and long lasting.
  • Advances in laser technology and fiber optics—Improvements in band width and baud rate will result from these efforts.  Who knows, if the FED gets out of the picture maybe there will come a day in which there will be no dropped calls.
  • Rapid prototyping—This emerging technology can provide manufacturers and design engineers with prototypes within hours.  The various processes can be hastened to launch better products much faster than ever before. 
  • Access to clean water—We sometimes think that oil and petroleum products drive our societies. Not true—it’s clean water.  This is the resource we absolutely cannot do without.  Efforts are now underway to better utilize and manage this non-renewable resource.
  • Secure cyberspace—The day will come when true security is possible and we will no longer fear the “hacker”.  At that time, we will only have the CIA, FBI and IRS to worry about.
  • Advancements in semiconductors—These advancements will lead to the development of products on a micro scale and foster continued development of NANO technology.  We will be able to do more with less.

I think you can see the great optimism relative to the second list.  Please notice the contrast.  This is one reason that some of us, although dimensioning in number, choose to be engineers and not politicians.

 

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