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Convair B-36 Peacemaker

I've had a fascination about the B-36 since my childhood in the mid-1950s when I used to hear the roar of Peacemakers flying high over central Louisiana. Unfortunately, the B-36 wasn't part of the many air shows I attended at England Air Force Base in Alexandria, primarily a TAC base at that time.

Convair B-36B Peacemaker, S/N 44-92033, Buzz Number BN-033, in flight showing its red tail and wingtipsConvair B-36B-1-CF Peacemaker, S/N 44-92033, Buzz Number BN-033, in flight showing its red tail and wingtip markings (Courtesy of the U.S. Air Force)

My interest was furthered when I viewed the B-36 "City of Fort Worth" on display at Amon Carter Field in the early 1960s. My interest in the airplane continues to this day.

This section of Planes Of The Past is meant to be a tribute to those who designed & built the B-36, the crews who flew her, and those who have worked tirelessly to preserve this incredible airplane and its history.

I also respect the efforts of the officers and airmen of the Strategic Air Command (SAC) and the job they performed in maintaining the peace during the Cold War.

This section of the website is really just an accumulation of the information I have amassed in learning more about the B-36 over the years: my favorite links, photos, etc. Many have already done a tremendous job in documenting the airplane in great detail on the Internet, both in text and pictures, and I will not attempt to recreate the work already done. I have links to other B-36 websites I frequently visit.

Strategic Air Command (SAC)I've had the distinct opportunity now to view three of the four remaining Peacemakers, at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, the Castle Air Museum, and the Pima Museum in Tucson. I have on my "have to see" list a visit to the Strategic Air & Space Museum in Nebraska.

Thanks to the U.S. Air Force and the Air Force Museum for their images used on this page.

Air Force Requirements for an Intercontinental Bomber

The Convair B-36 Peacemaker was one of the largest airplanes ever built, and was a key element in maintaining peace during the Cold War with Russia during the 1950s. Originally conceived in 1941 as an intercontinental bomber, it came into production in the late 1940s.

The Army Air Corps' specifications for this very long-range nuclear bomber required it to have a top speed of 450-mph, a service ceiling of 45,000 feet, carry a 10,000 pound bomb load, and fly non-stop for 12,000 miles. This would enable the bomber to strike targets in Europe from air bases in the United States, and return to their home base. Bids were issued to the Boeing Aircraft Company and to Consolidated Aircraft, the ultimate winner of the B-36 contract.

B-36 Flight Testing and Production

B-36 U.S. Air Force Strategic Bomber TOPPS Card #24
B-36 U.S. Air Force Strategic Bomber TOPPS Card #24
(from the TOPPS Wings Friend or Foe Trading Card collection)

The XB-36 (S/N 41-13570) made its maiden flight on August 8, 1946. The second prototype was designated the YB-36 (S/N 42-13571), and flew for the first time on December 4, 1947. The first B-36A (S/N 44-92005) was accepted in May of 1948.

Much of the B-36's external skin was made of magnesium, which had a dull color, in contrast to the shiny aluminum used to cover the fore and aft pressurized compartments. During production of the Peacemaker, Convair and the Air Force evolved the plane to the B-36D, B-36F, and B-36H models.

A major change to the original, basic B-36 design was the addition of jet engines. Beginning with the B-36D, the Peacemaker added four General Electric J47-GE-19 jet engines, mounted in pods like those used in the Boeing B-47. Ultimately, the Air Force had all earlier B-36 units reconfigured with the jet engines.

The B-36J was the last production series, most of which were "Featherweight III" models. Older models were retrofitted as "Featherweights", to reduce weight and improve speed. A large number of reconnaissance versions were also built, including RB-36H models.

These giants were built in Fort Worth by the Consolidated Vultee Aircraft Corporation (later known as Convair) at its Carswell Air Force Base assembly plant. Ultimately, 384 were built, all with 6 propellers mounted on the back of the wings, and most with an additional 4 jet engines mounted on the wingtips. Thus, "six turning, four burning".

Specifications of the B-36

The size, dimensions and power of the B-36 are staggering. Some notable facts:

  • Design competition begun in April 1941 for a long-range aircraft
  • First flight of the airplane: August 8, 1946
  • First deliveries to the U.S. Air Force: November, 1948
  • Retired: February 12, 1959
  • Number built: 384
  • Builder: Consolidated Vultee Aircraft Corporation, later to become Convair
  • Engines: six piston, four jet
  • Wingspan: 230'
  • Length: 162'
  • Height: 46' 9"
  • Crew: 15
  • The B-36 was the largest mass-produced piston engined aircraft ever made

Only four B-36 aircraft have survived and are display.

End of the Line for the B-36

By 1953, the Air Force made the decision to procure the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress as its next long-range heavy bomber. In February of 1956, the first B-36 aircraft arrived at Davis-Monthan AFB for scrapping. By late 1958 only 22 B-36s were left on active duty.

Four B-36 were selected for preservation, along with the cargo version of the B-36, the XC-99.

On February 12, 1959, B-36J (S/N 52-2827), the last B-36 built, flew the last B-36 mission to Amon Carter Field in Fort Worth. It would remain on display in Fort Worth for many years, until a lack of maintenance took its toll; the plane was later moved to the PIMA Air & Space Museum in Tucson.

By October of 1961 all of the remaining Peacemaker fleet had been reduced to scrap.

Aerial view of the more than 230 acres of Convair B-36 Peacemakers at Davis-Monthan AFB awaiting scrapping
(U.S. Air Force Photo)
Aerial view of Convair B-36 Peacemakers at Davis-Monthan AFB awaiting scrapping
End of the line: B-36 Peacemakers at Davis-Monthan AFB in 1958 awaiting scrapping (U.S. Air Force Photo)
End end of the line: B-36 Peacemakers at Davis-Monthan AFB (Air Force Photo)

B-36 Assembly Line Photos

USAF B-36 Peacemakers on the Convair assembly line in Fort Worth (LIFE Magazine photo)
USAF B-36 Peacemakers on the Convair assembly line in Fort Worth
Convair B-36 Peacemaker assembly line in Fort Worth (LIFE Magazine photo)
Convair B-36 Peacemaker assembly line in Fort Worth
B-36 Peacemaker wing assembly in Convair's Fort Worth plant (LIFE Magazine photo)
B-36 Peacemaker wing assembly in Convair's Fort Worth plant
Convair B-36 Peacemaker assembly line in Fort Worth (LIFE Magazine photo)
Convair B-36 Peacemaker assembly line in Fort Worth
Convair B-36 Peacemaker "tilt" at the Fort Worth, Texas plant near Carswell AFB (LIFE Magazine photo)
Convair B-36 Peacemaker "tilt" at the Fort Worth, Texas plant near Carswell AFB

Photographs of the B-36 on Duty and In Action

B-36A, S/N 44-92006, Buzz Number BM-006 (U.S. Air Force photo)
B-36A, S/N 44-92006, Buzz Number BM-006

Convair B-36D S/N 49-2652 at Carswell AFB, Fort Worth, Texas (U.S. Air Force photo)
B-36D S/N 49-2652 at Carswell AFB, Fort Worth, Texas

Convair RB-36D at Ellsworth AFB (U.S. Air Force photo)
U.S. Air Force RB-36D at Ellsworth AFB

Part of the Air Force Strategic Air Command (SAC) B-36 Peacemaker fleet, circa 1949 (LIFE Magazine photo)
Part of the Air Force Strategic Air Command (SAC) B-36 Peacemaker fleet, circa 1949
Convair B-36 Peacemakers on the tarmac (LIFE Magazine photo)
Convair B-36 Peacemakers on the tarmac
Convair B-36 Peacemakers parked in rows (LIFE Magazine photo)
Convair B-36 Peacemakers on the tarmac
Tail sections of U.S. Air Force B-36 Peacemakers at Luke AFB Arizona (LIFE Magazine photo)
Tail sections of U.S. Air Force B-36 Peacemakers at Luke AFB Arizona
Convair B-36 Peacemaker S/N 492043 (foreground) and BM-013 (background) (LIFE Magazine photo)
Convair B-36 Peacemaker S/N 492043 (foreground) and BM-013 (background)
US Air Force B-36 Peacemakers, including Buzz Number BM-031 (LIFE Magazine photo)
US Air Force B-36 Peacemakers, including BM-031
Convair B-36 Peacemaker lineup on the tarmac. S/N 44-920019, Buzz Number BM-019, seen in the background
(LIFE Magazine photo)
Convair B-36 Peacemaker lineup on the tarmac. S/N 44-920019, Buzz Number BM-019, seen in the background
Convair B-36J-75-CF (S/N 52-2827, the last production B-36J) (U.S. Air Force photo)
End end of the line: B-36 Peacemakers at Davis-Monthan AFB (Air Force Photo)

Flying with the Crew of the B-36 Peacemaker: Photographs

Convair B-36 Peacemaker crew ready for flight (LIFE Magazine photo)
Convair B-36 Peacemaker crew ready for flight
Nose of Convair B-36 Peacemaker with crew (LIFE Magazine photo)
Nose of Convair B-36 Peacemaker with crew
Inside the Convair B-36 Peacemaker cockpit area (LIFE Magazine photo)
Inside the Convair B-36 Peacemaker cockpit area
Working inside the cockpit of the U.S. Air Force B-36 Peacemaker (LIFE Magazine photo)
Working inside the cockpit of the U.S. Air Force B-36 Peacemaker
Up front in the cockpit of the Convair B-36 Peacemaker (LIFE Magazine photo)
Up front in the cockpit of the Convair B-36 Peacemaker
Crawl tunnel over the bomb bays in a Convair B-36 Peacemaker (LIFE Magazine photo)
Crawl tunnel over the bomb bays in a Convair B-36 Peacemaker
Crew compartment in the Convair B-36 Peacemaker (LIFE Magazine photo)
Crew compartment in the Convair B-36 Peacemaker
Focusing on work inside the Convair B-36 Peacemaker (LIFE Magazine photo)
Focusing on work inside the Convair B-36 Peacemaker

B-36 Photos Courtesy of the Author

B-36 S/N 52-2220 on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio more photos
B-36J Peacemaker on Display at the Museum of the U.S. Air Force
B-36J S/N 52-2827 at the Pima Air & Space Museum in Tucson, Arizona more photos
B-36 on display at the Pima Air Museum in Tucson, Arizona
RB-36H S/N 51-13730 on display at the Castle Air Museum, Atwater, California more photos
RB-36H on Display at Castle Air Museum

Historic Postcard of the B-36 Peacemaker from the PlanesOfthePast Collection

Convair B-36 Peacemaker, S/N 22220, as shown in this historic postcard
Convair B-36 Peacemaker, S/N 22220
B-36 Peacemaker, S/N 44-92033, Buzz Number BM-033, in flight, as shown in this historic postcard
B-36 Peacemaker BM-033 in flight, as shown in this historic postcard
McDonnell XF-85 parasite fighter S/N 46523 designed to be launched from a B-36 Peacemaker
McDonnell XF-85 parasite fighter S/N 46523 designed to be launched from a B-36 Peacemaker

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