The B-29 Superfortress was the most sophisticated bomber mass-produced during World War II. With a pressurized cabin, remotely-controlled gun turrets, a 20,000 lb. bomb load capacity, 4,000+ mile range, a 40,000 foot ceiling, and a top speed of 350 mph, the first Superforts entered combat service in 1944. Most were deployed from atolls in the Pacific theater, which is also where Enola Gay, the most famous B-29 of all, took off to detonate the world's first atomic weapon over Hiroshima, Japan in 1945.
The B-29 was an impressive aircraft in its day -- so much so that the Soviet Union reverse-engineered the plane to create a clone version called the Tupolev Tu-4. (874 Tu-4s were built!) But as a work of industrial design, the most remarkable thing about the B-29 was probably it's fabulous glazed nose, which still manages to look futuristic in a Buck Rodgers sort of way.
Here's how the nose would have looked from the vantage of a World War II cockpit crew:
Fewer than 30 B-29s exist today in various museum collections, but one of the survivors is "Miss America '62," a B-29 that's currently on display at the Travis Air Museum at Travis Air Force Base near Fairfield, California. The museum's website provides a history of this aircraft and how it got its name:
Our B-29 was built at the Glenn L. Martin Company's Omaha, Nebraska assembly line in December of 1944. After World War II, she flew with the 301st Bomb Group of the Strategic Air Command. During the Korean War, she flew with the 373rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, Kindley Air Base, Bermuda.
In 1956, the B-29 was transferred to the U.S. Navy's Naval Weapons Test Center at China Lake, California. Here she sat out in the desert as a stationary target. In late 1985, the B-29 was dismantled and loaded into a C-5 for the flight to the Travis Museum.
After its arrival at the museum, work began to reassemble the B-29. After the wing was mated to the fuselage, the task of stripping all of the old paint got underway. As the layers of paint were removed, the last layer of paint yielded the nose art - "Miss America '62."
"Miss America '62" was a combat veteran that flew from the island of Tinian during the war with the 6th Bombardment Group, 24th Bombardment Squadron. The original crew members chose to name their bomber "Miss America '62" because all were married and 1962 would be the earliest that one of their daughters could be entered into the famous beauty contest.
Telstar Logistics visited the Travis Air Museum earlier this year, and the photos you see here were a souvenir of the trip. Hope you enjoy the perspectives as much as we did while shooting them.
B-29 Superfortress (Wikipedia entry)
Travis Air Museum (Official site. CAUTION: Very realistic jet engine sound plays upon loading.)
(Photos of Miss America '62 by Telstar Logistics. Vintage cockpit photo from the fascinating uscockpits.com.)