Don't Ever Touch the Red Button - II

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2nd Lieutenant
May 30, 2011
Cape Canaveral
A friend of mine who had been an RAF pilot in WWII and later worked for Convair in Ft Worth on the B-58 once related the following story to me.

A group of Convair engineers were talking to the USAF aircrew at Carswell AFB, across the runway from their plant, and were told that one of the B-36's was going to go for a relatively short test flight and would one of the Convair people like to come along?

This produced an argument among the Convair engineers over who would get to go, which was settled by their supervisor saying he would take the ride. The Air Force outfitted him with a parachute and helmet and told him to be sure to plug into the intercom so he could be advised as to what was going on.

The Convair engineer settled himself next to one of the observation blisters and prepared to enjoy the flight, which was going to be a short one of only a few hours, flying over West Texas at an altitude low enough that they would not need pressurization, so they could check out some repairs.

As the airplane climbed out the the rear observers, called "Scanners" began to chide the pilots and flight engineer about the engines not being leaned out enough, and producing dark smoke in the exhaust. There was no need to fine tune the engines for a short low altitude flight but the good natured ribbing went on for a while, with the pilot finally saying, "Well, if it gets too bad we'll abandon the aircraft."

The Convair engineer listened to this discussion but he had a faulty intercom connection and heard only, "Engines smoking... all six engines smoking ... abandon the aircraft."

So he did, opened the observation blister and stepped outside.

Back at Carswell AFB the B-36 landed and the crew noticed that their extra passenger was missing. And the blister where he was sitting had been opened. They found him a couple of days later, wandering around West Texas.
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I read a fantastic story from a plastic modeling magazine last year about the B-36 & the "scanners" are there for a very good reason. The B-36 is powered by six Pratts facing backwards which they were not designed for. Consequently, the engines were prone to fires whether starting, or more critically, in flight, especially during snow storms. The leading edges of the wings on earlier models did not have anti-icing capabilities. The ice would form over the intakes to the engines leading to fires from overheated engines from lack of cooking air &/or rich fuel mixture (lack of air in the fuel/air mixture). This is where the "scanners" came into play.

If the scanners reported to the pilot that any of the engines were blowing out flames of ten-fourteen feet, they were to report to the pilot whereupon he would follow procedures & immediately initiate shutdown.

I could go on, but much of the accidents are pretty well documented.
Great story MIflyer.



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