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Convair’s B-58 Hustler — Mach 2 hot and Bendix Trophy cool

23 January 2013

Convair’s B-58 Hustler — Mach 2 hot and Bendix Trophy cool

Bendix Trophy winning crew — photo by Joseph May

Bendix Trophy winning flight crew who were  Capt. Sowers (pilot), Capt. Robert MacDonald (navigator) and Capt . John Walton (Defense Systems Operator) with  Crew Chief MSgt Cockrell — photo by Joseph May

Convair’s B-58 Hustler was a fast mover — a strategic bomber which could fly high and fast or low and fast — more like a fighter aircraft than a conventional bomber. Four afterburning engines and a crew of three flying an aircraft meant to attack at Mach 2 brought challenges beyond the norm. So that crewmen could survive ejection into Mach velocity windstreams each occupied a seat that closed much like a clamshell when the ejection sequence was initiated. Parasitic drag was cleverly reduced with the multi use mission pod slung beneath the fuselage. Fuselage space reserved for fuel and weapons in conventional aircraft was eliminated in the Hustler with the result of having it become leaner and faster upon egressing the target area.

The Hustler on exhibit in the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force also was flown  n a speed run in 1962, called “Operation Heat Rise”, (averaging ~1215 mph/1944kph) across the United States which earned the flight crew the Bendix Trophy.

Bendix Trophy winning Convair B-58 Hustler displayed in the National Museum of the USAF — photo by Joseph May

Bendix Trophy winning Convair B-58 Hustler displayed in the National Museum of the USAF — photo by Joseph May

Bendix Trophy remark — photo by Joseph May

Bendix Trophy remark — photo by Joseph May

A second viewing angle of the Bendix Trophy winning — photo by Joseph May

A second viewing angle of the Bendix Trophy winning — photo by Joseph May

Seven-o-clock aspect angle of the B-58, note the  inert free fall nuclear weapons — photo by Joseph May

Seven-o-clock aspect angle of the B-58, note the inert free fall nuclear weapons and remotely controlled tail gun (stinger)— photo by Joseph May

B-58 Hustler escape pod, one each for each of the three flight crew members — photo by Joseph May

B-58 Hustler escape pod, one each for each of the three flight crew members — photo by Joseph May

Additional fact sheets from the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force are:

B-58 dual purpose free fall weapons and fuel cell pod exhibited at the Castle Air Museum — photo by Joseph May

B-58 dual purpose free fall weapons and fuel cell pod exhibited at the Castle Air Museum — photo by Joseph May

Detail of the B-58 Hustler pod pictured above — photo by Joseph May

Detail of the B-58 Hustler pod pictured above — photo by Joseph May

10 Comments leave one →
  1. Larry permalink
    30 January 2015 21:38

    Cool site. I know Robert “Gray” Sowers. He lives in Tucson and is a friend. Pretty amazing guy to talk to. Most people don’t know that he went on to be the 1st instructor pilot for the SR-71….and then flew Charlie Pride to his concerts for 15 years. He was involved in a mid air collision while flying Charlie Pride to an event in 1980(?)….and still managed to land safely. Very humble guy when it comes to his accomplishments.

    • travelforaircraft permalink*
      1 February 2015 08:31

      Thank you for the compliment. It’s so cool you know Robert Sowers, turning him into a real person instead of a name in a post. The first instructor pilot for the SR-71–that must have been a special challenge for him. And bringing an aircraft in after a collision while flying–that must be a story and am glad he and his passengers survived, of course.

      If he’d like someone to write about these experiences I’d be pleased as punch to do so. If he has questions, you or he, can email me at travelforaircraft@gmail.com

      Thanks again🙂

      • Larry permalink
        3 February 2015 18:31

        I told Gray the other day that I’m disappointed that nobody has ever interviewed him about his life experiences as a pilot…..his reply was …”I don’t want anybody too either”. He says that back in the day everything was very secret …and now (hes 88) has no desire to do an interview. But if you have any questions about him I can get you the answers. This guy made history…..but to him it was no big deal.

  2. 22 February 2015 16:24

    It’s so good to hear people talk about Robert and his accomplishments. I am a cousin of his and was 12 when he won the Bendix trophy. Thank you!

    • Larry permalink
      23 February 2015 23:30

      Good to meet you Bud. I stop by and visit Gray often….actually I visited him this afternoon lol. I never get bored talking to him. I had Gray & SR-71 pilot Pat Halloran over for dinner recently. I think its important to remember great people and their accomplishments.

      • Jeff A permalink
        1 June 2016 15:05

        Hi, sorry for the late post, but I believe Col. Sowers is the man that I used to hang out with as a child in Austin, TX in the 80’s. He and my father were good friends, and I can remember going to his house and being fascinated by his stories and all the models he had there. I specifically remember the B-58 Bendix trophy story, and that he flew P-38s over Europe. I also remember a freezer full of Blue Bell ice cream.🙂

        Can anyone confirm that he lived in Austin, TX in the early 80s? We moved in 1984 and we lost touch, but I never forgot him. Only recently have I thought to try to look him up.

        Thanks!

      • Larry permalink
        4 July 2016 19:01

        I’m not sure if he lived in Austin Texas or not. I will see him again soon so I will ask him. I asked him who Bud Sowers was after the last post and he really had no idea.

      • Jeff A permalink
        4 July 2016 19:28

        Thanks so much for the reply and for asking him about the Austin connection. If it checks out, I would love to contact you directly and try to get in touch with Col. Sowers.

        Let me know what you find out.

        Jeff

      • Larry Kean permalink
        15 July 2016 10:21

        Col. Sowers said he never lived in Austin TX, and he never flew P38s . He did live in Texas at one time but it wasn’t Austin. You may have him confused with someone else. If you still believe it may be him send me an email at lardawg67@gmail.com and I can put you in contact with him.

      • Jeff A permalink
        15 July 2016 15:57

        Thanks so much for asking! It must have been someone else. I’ll talk with Dad again and make sure I have my story straight.

        Either way, thanks Col. Sowers for his service and I wish he and you all the best.

        Jeff

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