The Last B-36
The last B-36 (52-2827) before coming off the production line on July 1, 1954
Lockheed Martin Photo

The Last B-36

Of 386 B-36's built from 1946 to 1954, only four survive. B-36-J-III 52-2827 City of Fort Worth was built in Fort Worth, Texas in 1954, and was retired in 1958. It was displayed at Amon Carter Field, later Greater Southwest Airport, from 1958 until the late 1970s, when it was moved to Carswell Air Force Base. Exposed to the extremes of Texas weather, the giant aircraft slowly deteriorated. In the early 1990s the aircraft was disassembled and moved indoors to hangar space at the factory where it was built, donated by Lockheed Aircraft. A group of dedicated volunteers, many of them retired Convair employees who had worked on the original B-36 assembly line, spent 40,000 man-hours restoring the plane.

The aircraft is officially owned by the National Museum of the United States Air Force (NMUSAF), but was on loan to the B-36 Peacemaker Museum. In 2006, it was agreed that the Peacemaker Museum did not have the proper resources to restore and exhibit the aircraft, and the aircraft was trucked to the Pima Air & Space Museum (PASM) in Tucson, Arizona where it is being restored and will be exhibited after restoration. In the Tucson climate it is possible to display aircraft outdoors without the kind of deterioration that occurred in Fort Worth. The National Museum of the United States Air Force still retains ownership of the aircraft.

Pima Air & Space Museum
Tucson, Arizona

If you've never seen a B-36 Peacemaker up close, it's difficult to grasp just how large this aircraft is. I'm speaking from experience, because I had never seen one in person. Before beginning the sonar search for the B-36 off of San Diego I really wanted to get a good sense for exactly what it was we were looking for. I figured the only thing to do was to go and see one. I knew the last B-36 ever manufactured was undergoing restoration at the Pima Air & Space Museum in Tucson, Arizona. I contacted the Director of Collections & Aircraft Restoration, Scott Marchand, and asked him if he would allow me access to the plane. He was more than happy to help out.

When I finally arrived at the museum I was greeted by Restoration Manager, John Heibler. John took me and my family on a personal tour of the B-36. John is very knowledgeable guy. He took the time to explain the aircraft to me and gave me full access to the plane. I was able to climb the ladder into the aft crew compartment and from there into the tail. He also allowed us to climb through the bomb-bay and into the forward crew compartment. From there we could climb the steps into the cockpit. I spent a fair amount of time in there and took lots of pictures. I wanted to stay inside longer, but it was getting pretty hot.

Back outside I took special note of how large the exterior features were. The landing gear, wings, and tail are enormous. I wanted to see the propellers, so John drove us a short distance to where the props and jet pods were being stored. I took several pictures of the massive 19 ft propellers and jet pods. John spent the better part of two hours with us showing us other aircraft and different areas of the facility. My daughter thought it was going to be boring looking at some old plane. After we left the museum she couldn't stop talking about how much fun she had. If you're ever passing through Tucson, be sure to stop by and check out the Pima Air & Space Museum.

Pima Air & Space Museum
Entrance to the Pima Air & Space Museum.

Pima Entrance
Beauty of Flight

B-36 Nose
"City of Ft. Worth", the last B-36.

Gary Fabian inside the B-36
Sitting in the pilot seat I couldn't imagine what it was like to fly such a huge aircraft. CRAZY!

B-36 Cockpit
A view of the cockpit from the bottom of the steps.

B-36 Copilot seat
The copilot seat.

B-36 Flight Engineer Station
The flight engineer's station.

The navigator and bombardier stations.

John Heibler showing B-36 Bomb Bay
Restoration Manager, John Heibler explaining the bomb racks in the forward bomb-bay.

B-36 Forward Landing Gear
The forward landing gear.

B-36 Main Landing Gear
Main landing gear.

B-36 Tail
Standing beneath the tail gives a real sense of scale. HUGE!

B-36 Propellers
One of the 19 ft diameter propellers from the last B-36.
Photo by John Heibler

B-36 Propeller Hub
A close up of the propeller hub.

Pratt & Whitney R-4360
A cutaway of a Pratt & Whitney R-4360 engine.