This Video Of A 40,000HP B-36 Peacemaker Taking Off Is Way Cool

This Video Of A 40,000HP B-36 Peacemaker Taking Off Is Way Cool

The Convair B-36 Peacemaker still stands as one of the most giant planes ever built. It still IS the largest piston driven airplane ever built as well as the largest combat aircraft ever. Packing six 3,800hp radial engines and four J-47 turbines, this 411,000lb monster could fly at over 420mph and had a range of some 10,000 miles. The wings were 7.5-feet thick at the end where they attached to the fuselage of the plane. The mighty radial engines spun props that were 19ft in diameter and the initial landing gear had single tires that stood 9-feet tall. The plane was updated and revised several times throughout its life with changes like guns being stripped off for weight and speed concerns. The B-36 used a crew of 15 men to operate it in flight and in this video you’ll get a glimpse of what that was like on take off. Wait until you see the flight engineer’s gauge panel!

What was the point of this thing? The B-36 was essentially the biggest potential death dealer in the world. Before countries had the technology to lob missiles at one another from afar, they needed another way to get the nukes to their “final destination”. In the late 1940s and into the 1950s this meant that planes would have to haul the payload. The B-36 could carry any of America’s nuclear weapons of the day from “normal” nukes to stuff like giant hydrogen bombs. It had a payload capacity of 86,000lbs.

It was not without its problems though. Engine fires were common, electrical issues plagued the machines, and through its operational life, there were two instances of nuclear weapons being “lost” on B-36 missions. One was actually dropped in New Mexico but did not explode as the bomb had been disarmed prior to the flight. The other was dropped over the ocean when a crew was getting ready to bail out of a failing plane. That bomb did not have plutonium in it, apparently. Whoopsie doodle!

In the video below, which is a scene from the 1955 movie Strategic Air Command starring Jimmy Stewart as a baseball star that served in the SAC. The B-36 was shown all through this movie. While this is a “Hollywood” scene, there is lots of actual flight footage used, it appears a real cockpit is used here, and the takeoff sequence is really, really awesome. Watching this massive machine heavy itself skyward is really something else.

By 1961, these planes were out of service, having been rendered largely obsolete. Technology marches on but the sheer size, scope, and raw power that the B-36 had will probably never be matched again in a combat aircraft.


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23 thoughts on “This Video Of A 40,000HP B-36 Peacemaker Taking Off Is Way Cool

    1. Paul Daniel

      In west Texas in the early fifties you could hear these massive machines with their own unique roar for 15 minutes as they approached and left the airspace over the area! No other plane made this sound from 30,000 feet! Wow, what memories!

  1. KCR

    An old friend of my Fathers. Flew on one of these through the Korean war. He told me all kinda stories of the power these monsters had. As he said. We had 6 A-Turn’n and 4 A-Burn’n. And all burning 120 octane Av-gas. Being that they flew at such high altitudes. And for some times 36-hour flights. They had a pressurized fore and aft cabins he said. And a long tube down the fuselage. And as he described it was kinda like a creeper device that they could go fore and aft on, all while under pressure. I have seen pictures of these next to a B-52. they were quite a bit bigger than the 52. I believe there is one at the Airforce Museum in Ohio.

    1. William Goga

      The B-36 on display at the Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio was so large that they parked the aircraft in it’s desired display position and then built the building around it.

  2. Gary Poitras

    Had one on static display at Chanute Air Force Base in Illinois in 1970 while attending jet engine mechanic tech school. Looking at this monster, I always thought it was a big ugly thing. Later, liked it even less when I read how the original YB-49 (flying wing) had been dropped in competition against it, due to government interference, and dirty deals.

    1. WatchCat

      The YB-49, and it’s predecessor the YB-35, were dropped because they had serious stability problems that were not able to be overcome until the advent of modern flight computers. Granted, the “flying wing” concept was way ahead of its time, but the newly minted U. S. Air Force needed a reliable strategic bomber to counter the Soviet nuclear threat.

      My father flew the “36” and was thankful it was chosen over the the “wing”, which was considered a death trap flying on a razors edge by pilots.

  3. Cliff Morgan

    There are a couple of frames in this video where it looks like Jimmy Stewart in the cockpit. I know he retired as a general & was a WWII pilot.

    1. Jeff James

      Video is from a 1955 movie, “SAC” which starred Jimmy Stewart, so you are correct. He is in the shots with the flight engineer.

  4. Hal Scott

    When I was a kid the first check flight of each B36 came over our house 150 miles from Ft Worth. I can still remember that sound.

    1. Travis skidmore

      First b36 I saw In flight low alt. Carswell afb lost tip outer wing in top pecan tree. Scattered smaller parts over Greenville area w/safe landing at base only power 4 engines

  5. Loren

    The Air Force did not allow movies to be shot in a B-36 Cockpit. They did allow extensive still photos. From a description by Dennis R. Jenkins: “…the movie featured some of the most accurate sets ever built. In order to construct the full-scale mockup of a B-36 interior, Paramount sent a crew to measure every inch of a real B-36B. As part of the assignment, all of the interior spaces were photographed, most with various rulers or measuring tapes in full view to aid the construction team back at the studio”, Somewhere, I can’t remember, I had also read the set builders used instruments and equipment from surplus suppliers wherever they could if it looked close enough, which you’d imagine they would. With that, I’ve never seen the movie (my bad).

    1. Steve Eaton

      Loren, “SAC” and “The Bridges At Toko-Ri” are the two best historical preservations of active American combat aircraft from that time that I can imagine. We are blessed to have them.

  6. Bendix20

    The B-36 was a stop gap measure between the B29/50 and the B52. It never saw any combat and basically was in service only 13 years. It was obsolete almost as soon as it was put into service. Glad they managed to save a few of them for people to see.

  7. Jackie D. Covington

    Saw the B-36 while we attending propeller school at Chanute A.F.B. in 1960, hope to see again at the Air Force museum.

  8. Peter Salamon

    I saw the B-36 while stationed at Burtonwood AFB in England There was concern when they landed at Burtonwood as the air field had abandoned cold mines under the base They were concerned that weight of plane landing might cause runways to collapse but all flight was successful It was quite a sight to see I know the B-36 was stationed at the time in Texas I was stationed at Burtonwood 1955-1957 during Korean War

    1. John Churcher

      There must have been quite a few based in England in the early 1950s. As a young boy I remember often seeing them flying very high above the small Hampshire village where I lived. A real treat for a youngster at the time.
      I have never forgotten it but I never got to see any close up. After we moved away to another part of Hampshire in 1956 I never saw them again.

  9. Dan Boatwright

    Colonel Jack McKinnon, my second cousin, took us on a tour inside of a 36 at Carswell AFB. I I was very young and most impressed with the size and complexity of the bomber. It was a real treat for our family to get to do that in the late50sor early 60s. I’ll never forget that experience.


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