A FOREWORD TO
B-36: SAVING THE LAST PEACEMAKER
Walter J. Boyne
My first view of a Convair B-36 took place during what would today be called a “near miss.” I was a green copilot in a Boeing B-50D from the 330th Bomb Squadron, 93rd Bomb Wing, at Castle Air Force Base, and we were flying toward a gunnery range off the Pacific Coast. Suddenly, from nowhere came this huge silver aircraft flashing past us at what seemed inches but was probably two or three hundred feet. We were going somewhat in the same direction, so the passing speed was not
exaggerated, but the size of the B-36 was so tremendous that it made an unforgettable impression on me.
And that is exactly what this third edition of B-36: Saving the Last Peacemaker has done—made a similar unforgettable impression, for surely it is the finest loving salute ever made to any aircraft at any time. No great celebrity could ever do better than to have his or her biography done in a similar manner, with such comprehensive photography, excellent documentation, and attention to detail. Leaving aside for a moment the heroic story of the life, near death and redemption of B-36J-III-10-CF
52-2827A, I would like to call attention to the quality of the CD for purely technical reasons. Anyone wishing to do a similar task would be wise to obtain this CD and study it, for it provides a gripping story line, beautiful photography, and perfect organization.
But aside from its technical excellence, the CD beautifully portrays the dramatic, heart warming, but sometimes heart-wrenching, story of the concerted efforts made by a band of brothers united in their love for a great aircraft type, and by chance for a particularly important example of that type, the very last one manufactured.
Of the 383 B-36 aircraft built, only four survive today. There are B-36s to be found at the SAC Museum in Ashland, Nebraska, the Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio and the Castle Air Museum in Atwater, California. The fourth aircraft – “old 2827”- was rescued by the spirited and tenacious actions of a small group of loyal supporters in Fort Worth, Texas. The story of its incredible journey from first flight to routine service in the Strategic Air Command to its return and subsequent
decline and spectacular rebirth are all brilliantly recorded here.
The subject of this CD is of course the youngest of the four surviving B-36s, and most probably the lowest time, for it had only 1,415 flying hours when it was retired. It has also almost certainly had the most eventful career after its retirement from service.
“Retirement” is a deceptive word, for an aircraft on active service is flown often, is well maintained, and even when readied for delivery to an aircraft bone yard, is always brought up to near-perfect flying condition. A “retired” aircraft, however, if not salvaged for its material content, is usually used as a “gate guard.” It is usually brought into position with some ceremony, and then remains outdoors, exposed to the weather—and this is deadly.
The average person has no reason to know how simple outdoor storage can so quickly damage a seemingly impervious aircraft made of aluminum and steel. The average person has no idea how far vandals will go in inflicting senseless, random damage, nor how insidious is the effect of corrosion even on an aircraft made primarily of aluminum. And all this deals with the visible problems. Internally, there is another host of hazards, from that of dissimilar metals reacting to the acids which gradually manifest themselves
in the old fluids that inevitably remain inside engines, hydraulic lines and so on.
The hardy band who undertook to restore 2827 to (at first) flying status, and then, when the hard truths prevailed, to exhibit status, were well versed in aircraft structures, and knew what to expect. But even they were continually surprised at the almost asymptotic upward curve of additional work required as they progressed. Such work is not inexpensive, for even the basic fundamentals—power, tools, preservatives—become increasingly costly over time. As Dennis Jenkins has noted, it is impossible to calculate
the total number of man hours that have been expended over the years, but a fair guess would put them well over 100,000. In addition, some $5,000,000 in cash has been invested—more than the cost of the B-36 when new.
Yet there was die-hard determination to succeed, no matter what the current political climate dictated about saving the aircraft. This determination proved to be like the flames in a foundry oven when it came to forging the strong relations among those involved in the project. This bonding is evident all through the CD, but comes to life in the very last section of the book, where tribute is paid to the late Clarence Edward Calvert, who worked on the B-36 as it was built, and was a chief custodian of its revival
when restoration work began.
The Last B-36 has now been assigned to a new home, the fine Pima Air Museum near Tucson, Arizona, and there it will receive the kind of care that has been lavished on it by the small but effective band of brothers in Fort Worth.