Thursday, April 6, 2017

What Is That?

The tail of the Enola Gay
Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center

As I am still suffering the deleterious effects of getting up way too early after getting not nearly enough sleep, another short post is in order.

For those who need to know such things, on Wednesday last I dropped The Missus Herself off at the aeroporto round about four in the AM, ya know real early. While there were (much to my surprise and dismay) a rather large number of people there at that insane hour, we arrived with ample time for her to go through security and board her flight to California. She pinged me from Chicago, two hour layover, then later on from Sandy Eggo, six hour layover. Fresno, then Hanford once she left Sandy Eggo. Long day for her.

Don't question the scheduling, the overall journey, though long and boring, had two benefits 1) I didn't have to drive to Boston, and 2) it was fairly cheap for a semi-short notice flight. The WSO did all the scheduling (something she did professionally in the Navy... settle down, settle down, not all schedules are equal...) and met most of my criteria. Well, all actually. I also wanted an early flight out of PVD so as to avoid rush hour in the greater Providence metropolitan area. Which, while small, and no where near approximating Boston, NYC, DC or (shudder) Los Angeles traffic, is still a pain in the butt. (Heh, he said butt...)

Anyhoo, I dropped her off and returned to Chez Sarge with plenty of time to get ready for work and take myself thither, arriving much earlier than usual. After a cup of coffee, a wee breakfast sandwich, and the ritual perusal of the "overnight mail" (as Buck was wont to call it) I began my engineering activities.

Only to discover that I was about as effective as a manager semi-trained 12-year old boy. I could not focus, the computer monitors (I have two) were continually going fuzzy, and I had all the mental acuity of a sea urchin. (Not to insult sea urchins but they don't look all that bright, sorry.)

So after an hour and a half, I packed it in, I gave up, I departed the building and RTBed. I was just too tired to function at anything above the molecular level. In my defense, I have just finished a course of heavy duty antibiotics (for that whole intestinal malady I have mentioned in that past) and am still recovering. Made me grumpy and tired they did, not to mention tasting "like ass."

Once at home, I immediately dove into my rack (much to the delight of the feline staff, they like it when I stay home) and though having consumed two cups of coffee, I nearly immediately wandered off to dreamland. Where the dreams were many and weird. (Lately I have had many dreams of The Missus Herself and I living in domiciles different from where we actually live. Not sure what that means, not sure I want to know.)

Anyhoo. Whilst the explaining of why this is a short post has made it not so short, I see I have yet to get to the point.

And this is different from other days, how?

But yes, I digress.

The last time I was down in Old Virginny, The Nuke and her beau took The Missus Herself and I out to the Udvar-Hazy Center. The Nuke's beau, like myself, likes military aircraft, his late Dad actually flew F-106s in the Air Force, so he was an Air Force brat, though he did his stint in the Navy and, once again, I digress.

While at Udvar-Hazy he mentioned, "What's that door under the tail in the Enola Gay?" To my chagrin, I found I could not answer that question. Mortified I was and determined to "look that up!" (Old Air Force answer to any question you did not know the answer to. "I don't know," while honest, was unacceptable. Don't ask me, I don't make the rules...)

Now I have finally remembered to "look that up", perhaps now you might be wondering just what "door" am I talking about? Here's a close up -


That, my friend is a "retractable tail bumper."

No, really Sarge, what is it? Really, here's the proof, graphically and textually.

Check out item #104 on the cutaway. (A larger version of that is here.)

This site had this to say: "The B-29 featured the first ever fully pressurized nose and cockpit in a bomber; an aft area for the crew was also pressurized. Since the bomb bays were not pressurized, a pressurized tunnel was devised to connect the fore and aft crew areas. A retractable tail bumper was provided for tail protection during nose-high takeoffs and landings."

So now I know what it is, and so do you. If anyone ever asks you what that door is under the Enola Gay's tail is, you'll know two things 1) it's not a door, and 2) you can tell them all about the B-29's amazing non-technicolor retractable tail bumper.

Or not.




40 comments:

  1. Modern airliners still use them, we have to check them for "hard landing" indications when the planes come into maintenance for a "C" check or a myriad of other checks that the manufacturer mandates.

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  2. The curl on the lower end gave it away to me. Just like a Spad.

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    1. Just noticed that. I need to pay better attention.

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  3. OK, so they did not install the arresting gear hook backwards.

    So, if the tail bumper makes contact with the runway, the subsequent indicator of contact on the runway would technically be a skid mark?

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  4. Sarge. Sarge. Sarge! You got friends.

    Ok. Next time. )And I know there is not likely to be one, but. I digress). You fly the missus herself out to Ontario. But before you do that, you have Lush go have a chat with basebops and get them to approve a DD-2401 for moi to land my little airplane at Lemoore. Then it would be little rhody to Dallas or Denver, then into ONzt. Then I pick her up and fly her directly to Lemoore. Do not pass no. Or Fresno. Or Hanford.

    Plus I love taxiing up on the flight line in my Comanche. And somehow. I'm thinking I could get a visit to the BX.

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  5. B-24s and PB4Ys had them as well.

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    1. 727s had one too, part of the DI is to see if the paint is scraped off the chunky, cast aluminium end. If it is, you inspect further. The DeHavilland Twin Otter has a steel leaf spring "stinger" to protect the rudder and the DeHavilland -8 has a fixed sacrificial fibreglass bumper.

      Al_in_Ottawa

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    2. Fascinating stuff, I really had no idea.

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  6. Replies
    1. Now there's a name I can get behind!

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  7. Wonder how many uses before replacement?

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    1. Ah, you have the soul of a maintainer. I like that!

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    2. Enola Gay is one of 48 or 50 Silverplate B-29s built by the Martin company in Grand Island NE. It is not a "showroom stock" B-29 and I know you noticed the only defensive armament is the tail guns. Lots of other modification (HamStd electric Props, not the standard hydraulic so they could get the props to reverse and get some braking effect). The aircraft, if I recall UHC docent training, was delivered a month or so before the Nagasaki mission (Enola Gay flew on both atomic missions) then flew back and forth between the US and Pacific for operation Crossroads (Think that was the name) tests and then turned over to the Smithsonian in Chicago. It has very few hours on the airframe, only did a couple combat missions, well taken care of....what could you gt for it in Trade-A -Plane?

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    3. Excellent data. Were you a docent at UHC? I love that place!

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    4. The Martin plant was located at Offutt Field (present day Offutt AFB) in Bellevue, Nebraska. Back in the 70's our USAFSS shop was located in that big building.

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    5. In the late 80s/early 90s I could see that building from my office building on the old parade ground. Been in there many times.

      A family of foxes lived just down the hill between the building and the runway. Offutt was a cool place.

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  8. Thanks for the info, Chris.

    Paul L. Quandt

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  9. Well, I certainly know next-to-nothing about aircraft. My best guess would have been that you loaded some sort of ammo in there, like shoveling shells into a shotgun.

    Just came up with a new tongue-twister! She shovels seaside shotgun shells serenely.

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    1. No doubt the ragged rascal around the rugged rock did run because she who shovels seaside shotgun shells was fully reloaded and was laying down suppressive fire on the ragged rascal.

      Now I need to go pick a peck of pickled peppers.

      See what you started?

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  10. The F-15 had a similar system that came into play when a pilot pulled too much AOA aerobraking on landing. (I believe that occurred at 21 degrees of AOA). Instead of "Retractable Tail Bumper" as on the B-29, on the Eagle it was called "the Engine Nozzles". Dragging them on the runway was certain to annoy the crew chief, who had to pull the engine(s), as well as the engine guys who had to fix them. I never had that issue, but I knew a few who did. Once! Evidently, pulling an engine is hard work when you've never done it before and you've got a PO'd E-4 supervising you!

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    1. Dragging the Eagle's tail feathers on the runway? Wow, I would imagine that's not a good idea regardless of how the crew chief and the engine shop feel about it.

      I remember watching them pull engines and re-install them on the F-4. Not a job for the faint of heart or those who would like to remain fastidiously clean at all times.

      So if a pilot dragged the nozzles the DCM (or DCO perhaps) would "let" them help pull the engine? Sounds fair. What you might call a "teachable moment."

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    2. Yeah, dragging them was usually a result of showing off, by trying to get the landing roll really short and turning off early. I always liked the thought of a 2 mile runway to get stopped. I'd get her down, and slowed to a nice fast taxi and run to the end. That served me in good stead, except once at Kwang-ju.......Hmmm maybe I should discuss that one in detail.

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  11. "Tail bumper"? Wasn't that Bill Clinton's nickname in college?

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    1. Hahaha!

      (Though I doubt his gear was retractable.)

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    2. I missed the obvious: "Oh, you skid!"

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    3. Hahaha! Very nice, but your first attempt was a winner. Hands down.

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  12. Dang! That was one I knowed!

    See that thingy stickin' down in front of the tail hook?

    https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/43/0f/ea/430feac0b1168ad5e760279fceaf8691.jpg

    Here's a better view.

    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/22/A3D-2_nose_wheel_collapse_USS_Saratoga.jpg

    An wooja lookie here...

    https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/a5/5e/a7/a55ea7b3b38696bd204235bba2e11c52.jpg

    Lotsa hairpanes can leave skid marks!

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    Replies
    1. Amazing. One learns something new every day.

      And why does the phrase "beached whale" keep running through my head?

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  13. Good excuse to post some video of FIFI, with the dangly-bit deployed.

    Hey, in the last year the number of airworthy B29s doubled. If that trend keeps up, within a dozen years or so, all of them ever built will be back in the air!

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  14. Also, I remember the mid-90s controversy over the display of Enola Gay's fuselage, so I'm glad the whole bird is on display now.

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    1. I'm sure no one protests the rusting hull of USS Arizona sitting on the bottom of Pearl Harbor. There is actually a plexiglass shield on the elevated walkway by the nose of the Enola Gay. Seems that some time back some idiot protestors threw a bucket of blood on the aircraft.

      Those who forget...

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Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)