When 6 is Not Enough

September 05, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

What do you do when you're flying the largest airplane in the skies, and you need more power?

During WW II, the U.S. set about building a bomber capable of reaching Germany from Newfoundland, in case Britain was overrun by Axis forces. While the Consolidated Vultee B-36 Peacemaker was not yet fielded by the end of the war, it subsequently entered service as a formidable strategic asset. It was designed to fly to targets 3,400 miles away, staying aloft up to 40 hours, propelled by six massive radial piston engines arranged as pushers (the props were behind the wings). It was certainly impressive, but apparently those six big mills weren't always enough.

(C) Chris J Price

So, when you were making a bomb run and needed a little extra zip, you could start up four more. And not four more piston engines — jets! That's 10, count 'em, 10 propulsion units, spinning and pushing and sucking and blowing. That's a lot of moving pieces.

(C) Chris J Price

How big is the plane? Well, if the Wright Brothers had taken off on their first flight at one wingtip and headed for the opposite wingtip, they would have nosed just past the midpoint of the fuselage. Even their longest flight on their first day wouldn't have made it all the way. The creation of this aircraft is also a testament to the speed of aviation development in the first half of the 20th Century — Orville Wright, one of the first humans to fly, in that wobbly, wood-and-fabric contraption, was alive to see the B-36 built and flown.


– Mark Bennett


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