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Pooler GA’s Boeing B-47B Stratojet

3 January 2020

The Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum’s Boeing B-47B Stratiojet—©2019 Joseph May/SlipstreamPhotography

The National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force (it’s easier to say Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum) is located along I-95 on the east side about 10 miles south of Savannah and you cannot miss seeing their impressive Stratojet. It sits on a pebbled pad with an English style chapel in the background and looks fabulous.

The Stratojet’s six engines, bicycle landing gear and black radome are clearly seen at this viewing angle—©2019 Joseph May/SlipstreamPhotography

The B-47’s design began in World War II but was changed drastically and nearly immediately with the post war analysis of Germany’s swept wing research. This made the Stratojet the world’s first swept wing bomber and Boeing didn’t stop setting the new paradigm with only the 35° angle of wing sweep. Boeing also made the wing section thing to allow for high cruising speeds with the results of moving the engines from within the wings to pylons slung beneath them. This paradigm is relevant to this day with airliner designs. Landing gear also was innovative using a bicycle arrangement with outrigger gear for the wings which could flex 17 feet or so. Features which would also carry over to the future B-52 Stratofortess. A yaw dampening system was vital to combat aileron reversal when the wings flexed.

The forward bicycle landing gear main of the B-47—©2019 Joseph May/SlipstreamPhotography

The three engines on the left wing and note the outrigger gear as well—©2019 Joseph May/SlipstreamPhotography

Living with the B-47 was challenging as the crew numbered only three. The pilot. The copilot who managed the fuel as well as the defensive machine guns in the tail. The navigator who was also the bombardier. Trim was vital at cruise altitude as was speed so the pilot closely monitored airspeed (only a few knots separated stall from overspeed) and the copilot transferred fuel around the aircraft as required. The nav/bomb sat in the nose without much of an outside view and even this parsimonious amount of view was eliminated on subsequent models.

The bicycle landing gear allowed for a long bomb bay which was required for the nuclear weapons of the time and were set so the wings were at the angle of attack for taking off—no rotation needed. The engines had long spool up times so final approaches were accomplished with the aid of a deployed 16 foot diameter approach parachute—this drag allowed the pilots to keep the engines spooled up. This parachute would be dropped upon landing with a larger 32 foot braking parachute was subsequently used.

Although not on later models the bravo variant had a pair of small windows in the nose for the navigator/bombardier but these have been faired over in this pilot training version (TB-47B) restored as a combat bomber (B-47B)—©2019 Joseph May/SlipstreamPhotography

Other recaonnaisance versions were built as well as models. The various recce versions carried an increased crew within the fuselage but shared the same windowless environment as the navigator.

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