Monday, October 19, 2015

Bulkley Valley Museum Exhibit - Artifacts From The Crashed Convair B-36 Bomber (Photos)

Above Photo: A model of the Convair B-36 bomber.

One of the exhibits I found fascinating was the story of the crashed Convair B-36 bomber which was found later on in northern British Columbia, and it had carried the Mark 4 nuclear bomb which was jettisoned before the plane crashed.

The folks at the museum have a really nice display done up for this exhibit. One of the artifacts that is on display is one of the guns that came from the wreckage of the crashed plane. There is a lot more to this exhibit, which is part of their Wings over the North: Aviation in Northern British Columbia display.

The Below Source information: From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

1950 British Columbia B-36 crash.

On 14 February 1950, a Convair B-36B, Air Force Serial Number 44-92075 assigned to the 7th Bomb Wing at Carswell Air Force Base, crashed in northern British Columbia after jettisoning a Mark 4 nuclear bomb. This was the first such nuclear weapon loss in history. The B-36 had been en route from Eielson Air Force Base near Fairbanks, Alaska to Carswell AFB in Fort Worth, Texas, more than 3000 miles south-east, on a mission that included 
a simulated nuclear attack on San Francisco.

Above Photo: One of the guns that came from the wreckage of the crashed Convair B-36 Bomber.


Plane 44-92075, was on a mission that was part of the first full-scale practice nuclear strike against the Soviet Union. Each B-36 involved in this exercise was to conduct a simulated nuclear attack on an American city. The exercise was also intended to test whether the B-36 could attack the Soviet Union during the Arctic winter, when temperatures are so low that if a plane engine were to be shut down for servicing on the ground, the engine could not be restarted.

Aircraft 44-92075 took off from Eielson AFB with a regular crew of 15 plus a Weaponeer and a Bomb Commander. The plan for the 24-hour flight was to fly over the North Pacific, due west of the Alaska panhandle and British Columbia, then head inland over Washington state and Montana. Here the B-36 would climb to 40,000 feet for a simulated bomb run to southern California and then San Francisco, it would continue its non-stop flight to Fort Worth, Texas. 

Above Photo: Wreckage on the mountain of the Convair B-36 bomber.

The flight plan did not include any penetration of Canadian airspace. The plane carried a Mark IV atomic bomb, containing a substantial quantity of natural uranium and 5000 pounds of conventional explosives. According to the USAF, the bomb did not contain the plutonium core necessary for a nuclear detonation.

Cold weather (−40 °F/−40 °C on the ground at Eielson AFB) adversely affected the planes involved in this exercise, and some minor difficulties with 44-92075 were noted before takeoff. Seven hours into the flight, three of the six engines began shooting flames and were shut down, and the other three engines proved incapable of delivering full power. The subsequent investigation blamed ice buildup in the mixture control air intakes.

Above Photo: Wreckage on the mountain of the Convair B-36 bomber.

The crew decided to abandon the aircraft because it could not stay aloft with three engines out of commission while carrying a heavy payload. The atomic bomb was jettisoned and detonated in mid-air, resulting in a large conventional explosion over the Inside Passage. The USAF later stated that the fake practice core on board the aircraft was inserted into the weapon before it was dropped.

The aircraft commander steered the plane over Princess Royal Island to spare his crew having to parachute into the cold North Pacific, whereupon the crew bailed out. Before bailing out last, he set a turning course toward the open ocean using the autopilot.

Above Photo: Part of Wings over the North: Aviation in Northern British Columbia display.

The plane had been in constant radio contact with Strategic Air Command headquarters at Offutt AFB, Nebraska, and within minutes of the bailout the Royal Canadian Air Force launched Operation Brix to find the missing men. Poor weather hampered search efforts; nevertheless 12 of the 17 men were eventually found alive. Four of the five deceased airmen were believed to have bailed out of the aircraft earlier than the surviving crew members, and it was assumed that they landed in the ocean and died of hypothermia. Two years later the partial remains of one of them was hauled up in a fishing net, while the remains of the fifth, the weaponeer, were recovered in 1954 from the crash site[dubious – discuss]. Canadian authorities were never told that the aircraft was carrying a nuclear weapon.

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