Friday, December 18, 2015

Great Planes: the B-36 and the Albatross

On FaceBook, we have one of the most fun groups I've ever run across: The Greatest Planes That Never Were.  There's all kinds of information on airplanes that were never built, never passed the prototype stage, etc.  
There's a wealth of expertise among the group members, too, so I tapped that to examine the feasibility of a plane I designed in my head for a novel.  

"I was playing with a fictional adventure set in 1959 that uses the next development of the nuclear NB-36H: the NB-61X Albatross, a larger twin-fuselage aircraft, the reactor set in its own streamlined pod around the CG, with an endurance of weeks without ground support and months with occasional touchdowns for food, engine oil, etc. the intent was to build a superbomber with a large suite of defensive and offensive weapons that could maintain constant air alert, but the Albatross was too slow and too costly, and only one was built. (For the story we get into circumstances where a patriotic crew has to steal it to stop a traitorous politician' plot, and all sides want to destroy it....) I know the climb rate would be terrible (thinking of emergency boost rockets to escape from attack), but what else would be a consideration? Could you build a wing that would handle the mass? Enlarge the wings? Enlarge the tailplanes? All thoughts welcome. (This is a Young Adult adventure, with a bit of the old Mike Mars vibe, so not everything has to be as accurate and detailed as it is in, say, Flight of the Old Dog, , but I'd like to make it ring true.)"

Surprisingly, the real experts thought it was pretty good. They suggested different engine configurations (the original B-36 was underpowered with its six piston engines, though it improved when jet pods were added.)  So I plan to revisit the Albatross!  

The B-36 was pretty amazing, still, with its  230-foot wingspan and 10,000-mile range.  I've seen a couple at museums: the size exceeds that of its its replacement, the B-52.  It was used for a variety of tests that provided curious-looking one-off versions. Herewith some views of a great plane. 

From top: B-36D with "six turning and four burning:" test aircraft with attachments to tow two F-84 fighters on the wing tips: and NB-36H, testbed for a nuclear-powered bomber (the reactor was not tested in flight).  Then we have the YB-60, an atempt by Convair to build a swept-wing version to compete with the B-52. Only one was built.  Below all these: the fictitious  NB-61H. Photos USAF.

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