What The Heck Were They Thinking? B-29 Project "Tip Tow"

Discussion in 'Post-War' started by syscom3, May 3, 2009.

  1. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    Project Tip Tow: Boeing B-29 with Republic F-84 Thunderjet.

    TIP TOW F-84D TESTS

    One of the more interesting experiments undertaken to extend the range of the early jets in order to give fighter protection to the piston engineed bombers, was the provision for in-flight attachment/detachment of fighter to bomber via wingtip connections. One of the several programs during these experiments was MX106 done with a B-29 mother ship and two F-84D "children", and was code named "Tip Tow" (not Tom Tom as stated above) A number of flights were undertaken, with several successful cycles of attachment and detachment, using, first one, and then two F-84s. The pilots of the F-84s maintained manual control when attached, with roll axis maintained by elevator movement rather than aileron movement. Engines on the F-84s were shut down in order to save fuel during the "tow" by the mother ship, and in-flight engine restarts were successfully accomplished. The experiment ended in disaster during the first attempt to provide automatic flight control of the F-84s, when the electronics apparently malfunctioned. The left hand F-84-1-RE 48-641 rolled onto the wing of the B-29, and the connected aircraft both crashed with loss of all onboard personnel.

    The pilot of the right-hand F-84D-1-RE 48-661 wrote of the Tip-Tow experiments in an article entitled Aircraft Wingtip Coupling Experiments published by the Society of Experimental Test Pilots.

    The photo above was taken during the longest "hookup" on 20 October 1950.

    File:Boeing B-29 TomTom.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

    Goleta Air and Space Museum: Flying Aircraft Carriers of the USAF: Wing Tip Coupling: B-29B/F-84D

    FICON project - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia



    One of the veterans at the B29 forum had this to say:

    "It was real and all three of them crashed in the process. Another goofy idea that looked great on paper. If memory serves the B-29 was 44-62093 and the crash occurred 11/20/51."
     
  2. Lucky13

    Lucky13 Forum Mascot

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    Hmmmm....another of those crazy ideas from the '50's.
     
  3. Colin1

    Colin1 Active Member

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    My God
    nutty as it looks, at least in flight the F-84s would have been generating some lift, on the ground they're just an awful lot of dead weight right at the very extremities of the B-29's wings; the accident doesn't really come as a great surprise, what comes as a surprise is that it didn't fold up just trying to get off the ground - that stage of the ride must have been a real pucker-clench for the F-84 drivers...

    Assuming worst case, if the bomber got all the way out to the target and the F-84s were required in defensive combat ie some rigorous fuel-burning, would the pair of them (assuming both survived) have the fuel to make it home? Or would there be some contingency airfield they could stage through?
     
  4. Lucky13

    Lucky13 Forum Mascot

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    Can't imagine them trying to hook up at the wingtips again...or?
     
  5. Gnomey

    Gnomey World Travelling Doctor
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    Interesting. Pretty crazy idea and not something I would really want to try. Not surprised they had an accident during the testing phase - or that they shelved it.
     
  6. ccheese

    ccheese Member In Perpetuity
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    What a strain that must have been during take-off. They would have
    been better off piggy-backed.

    Charles
     
  7. Matt308

    Matt308 Glock Perfection
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    Can you imagine trying to connect wingtips with the wing vortices in full swing? What a crackpot idea. And I'm with you guys, surely that had to beef up the outter wing spar/panels on the B-29.
     
  8. Sweb

    Sweb Member

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    Um, folks, the aircraft did not take off coupled. They coupled once airborne and decoupled to land.
     
  9. Matt308

    Matt308 Glock Perfection
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    Ohhh... what a great idea then. :rolleyes:
     
  10. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    It was so great, the B29 crashed.

    :lol:
     
  11. timshatz

    timshatz Active Member

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    Extra planes, extra pilots. Wierd ideas. "What the hell, we give it a whirl."
     
  12. Njaco

    Njaco The Pop-Tart Whisperer
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    Same idea as the Camel suspended below a dirigible for fighter protection. One bad updraft and you're gone!
     
  13. Sweb

    Sweb Member

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    Well, we're talking about a time when USAF had more dollars than sense. Ever read about the US Navy's soft carrier deck experiments designed to cushion the landings of planes without landing gears? Yep, the thinking was if planes didn't need landing gear they could be built much lighter and carry more fuel and ordnance. So, a resilient deck was experimented with and they actually tested it by pan-caking (gear up) some Grumman Cougars on it. It didn't work either. Same period, BTW. I suppose if the one was going to be stupid who was the other to be any different?
     
  14. Njaco

    Njaco The Pop-Tart Whisperer
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    You're right Sweb. We can scratch our heads at all the goofy stuff the Luftwaffe came up with during the war but we've had some doozies right here in the ole US of A!
     
  15. Flyboy2

    Flyboy2 Member

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    Reminds me alot of the F-85 Goblin
    XF-85 Goblin - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    I saw on the history channel once that the Air Force had a concept to link three B-36's together and fly them into enemy territory to save fuel and get a longer range... Can't find it on the web though
     
  16. mlsco

    mlsco New Member

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    Let's not forget the nuclear-powered aircraft studies during the 1950's, as well.

    Consider building a reactor well enough shielded not to fry the crew and still light enough to get off the ground...
     
  17. Matt308

    Matt308 Glock Perfection
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    Which one? There was the B-36 that had the nuclear reactor in it and then there was a nuclear propulsion powered bomber that was contemplated that was supposed to have high speed/intercontenental range and as a "bonus" spew radioactive exhaust over enemy territory. Gotta love the 50s.
     
  18. Soundbreaker Welch?

    Soundbreaker Welch? Active Member

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    Did they ever figure out a way to have light enough nuclear reactor aboard a plane?
     
  19. Matt308

    Matt308 Glock Perfection
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    Light enough if you consider it fit in a B-36. Not exactly small... nor light.
     
  20. Flyboy2

    Flyboy2 Member

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    I'm not sure.. I thought theoretically they were able too, but I'm not exactly positive.. The airforce ended up pullling the plug on the NB-36 program right before its first flight, so who knows
     
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