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calendar   Thursday - January 22, 2015

A bit of flying perspective

Thinking about airplanes while doodling around on the internet ...

I’ve never seen a B-29, the ultimate giant Allied bomber from WWII. Saw some sidebar news story the other day about how the restoration work is proceeding on one of them, such that there might be exactly two of the old birds actually flying by the end of this year. This is pretty amazing, especially since I didn’t know that there were any left at all. What a labor of love. And money. Lots and lots and lots of money.

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So, I got to wondering, just how giant an airplane was this thing? Sure, you can Wiki up the specs and see that it was huge for its day, half again as long as a B-17, with a wingspan half again as wide, and a tail half again as tall. Which is nice, but meaningless unless you’ve got a B-17 around to play with. I’ve never seen one of those either, but I’ve heard from those who have how they seem so small given the role they played. A bit more research shows that a B-29 is almost exactly the same size as a modern C-130 Hercules cargo plane, although much narrower in the fuselage (9 feet vs. 13.75 feet) Body about 100 feet long, wings about 140 feet wide, tail about 30 feet tall.

C-130s I have seen. This workhorse transport is a great contradiction in terms, a great big fat little airplane, another one of those 1950s designs that keeps on keeping on forever, while getting incrementally better all the time. The latest C-130 version out-performs the venerable B-29 in every way, carrying much more load, flying faster, flying higher, flying further and climbing many times faster. Pretty impressive for a cargo plane. But that’s still a context-free comparison for the rest of us who never see military aircraft of any kind. Fine. A B-29 and a C-130 are both the size of a modern 737 airliner, but with wider wings. The 737 is the “baby” jet you take on the less popular routes United flies. They don’t seem very big either when you’re inside them, but walking up to one on the tarmac is a bit impressive. I’ve worked in smaller office buildings. And this thing flies. Seriously, this is about as small an airplane as I’m happy to travel in. Another Little Big Plane, fuselage diameter 12.3 feet. And this one is miniscule compared to the real jumbos? OM.F.G. And it goes without saying that this modern jet mini-airliner leaves either of the two propeller driven planes discussed here in the dust. It’s not even funny. All it needs is ... half again as much runway.

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Closing the circle: the Marines land a C-130J on runway Baker, Tinian. Second plane since 1947

The above makes an interesting little read, but if you follow the link you’ll see that most of the troops arrived there at West Field, by 737 airliner. Which is kind of funny.

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The beginning of the end, literally

Photo R-L: runways Alpha, Baker, Charlie in 2008, North Field, Tinian Island, still in usable shape 60 years later.  This is where Enola Gay and BocksCar were based, the two B-29s that dropped the atomic bombs that ended WWII in the Pacific in 1945

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All pretty much the same size: a Navy C40A, the cargo version of the 737. With people for some scale perspective


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Posted by Drew458   United States  on 01/22/2015 at 12:41 PM   
Filed Under: • planes, trains, tanks, ships, machines, automobiles •  
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