b29 frozen in time

m35a2kevin

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I highly recommend this program,, if you can find it
kevin gibson


The Kee Bird was an American B-29 Superfortress bomber that became marooned after making an emergency landing in northwest Greenland during a secret Cold War spying mission in 1947. Although the entire crew was safely evacuated, after spending three days in the isolated Arctic tundra, the aircraft itself was left at the landing site. It lay there undisturbed until 1994, when a privately-funded mission was launched to repair and return it.

After months of painstaking work on the aircraft and setbacks such as the death of the mission's chief engineer, the repairs were completed and the aircraft prepared to take off from a frozen lake nearby. As it was taxiing to its takeoff position, however, a fire broke out inside the rear fuselage and quickly engulfed the whole aircraft. The entire crew on board escaped unharmed, but the Kee Bird was completely destroyed. When the lake thawed in the spring, the wreckage sank to the bottom, where it now lies.

The attempted repair and return of the Kee Bird was documented in the 1996 NOVA television episode "B-29 Frozen in Time".
 

No.2Diesel

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I remember seeing that Nova Episode a few years ago. The ending was hard to watch. :( If I can remember correctly a simple human error (loose fuel fitting) caused the plane to turn into a Pheonix. :evil:
 

CdnH1

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Ya I saw that episode a couple of years ago too. I thought it was something like the auxillary power unit or a heater in the rear of the plane was not bolted down properly and when the aircraft was taxiing it came loose and puncured a fuel line starting the fire. Either way it was very sad and I agree difficult to watch.
 

jasonjc

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I seen the same show it was great right up untill they set it on fire. If i rember right it was a gas powerd generator in the back they forgot to trun off or some thing and no one was back there. By the time they seen /knew of the fire it was to late. What a waste as there are only a few of those planes left.
 

m35a2kevin

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yeah it was the auxilary power unit a standby generator, was bounced loose.
it says the apu was left running, and the fuel tank came loose, dumping fuel
on the apu causing the fire,,from what ive read further about this project
Daryl Greenamyer the one who started it, went bankrupt, pretty much loosing
his butt,in the process, plus his chief mechanic richard Kriege who died during
the salvage atempt due to a bloodclot. the man pretty much lost everything trying to get this b29 home.
kevin
 

DanMartin

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I watched that too...the last 10 minutes were hard to watch. :( I really felt bad...what a downer.

I think I also remember another program about an entire squadron of P-38s buried in a glacier in Greenland (the entire squadron landed on the glacier when they got lost). The snow/glacier buried the planes in like 250' of ice. These were brand-new planes on their way to the European theater. There was an effort to tunnel down to them , dig them out and pull the planes up in pieces through the tunnel (melted through the ice with a heat-boring machine). I think they got one out (nearly perfectly preserved with the exception of a few crushed panels) and would go back for the rest in the future...

Here's some info on "Glacier Girl"...looks like they got it flying!
http://www.b-29s-over-korea.com/lost_squadron/lost_squadron.html
http://www.coffeedrome.com/glacier.html

Gotta wonder how many more of them are out there like that just waiting to be discovered.
 

Bill W

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I have a piece of one of those P-38's that was lost on Greenland ( 2 P-38's & 1 B-17). Another sad part of the Kee Bird was where it burned, it was taxing over a frozon lake when the fire started, that lake would thaw in the summer months, so everything including the ( rebuilt) engines went to the bottom before they could get back and salvage anything.
 

DDoyle

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Could this thread be retitled "recovery gone bad"?

Seriously, a rare aircraft was lost through what amounts to being careless, and "rigging" something rather than following procedures. A lot of the aviation forums provide a lot of details of this incident, as does the book HUNTING WARBIRDS, By CARL HOFFMAN.

IIRC, shortly after the expedition one of the members died as a result of injuries during the recovery attempt.

At least this wasn't in the middle of an interstate highway....but this is an example of the hazards of "rigging" gear for a recovery - of any type - and the type of press recoveries gone wrong get.

My .02,
David Doyle
 

jimk

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It is unfortunate the USAF, with its nearly unlimited resources (in labor, finance and equipment), cared not. Giving up on Kee Bird left the task to others. In 50 years only one answered the call.

I don't know how fair it is to speculate on a successful recovery mission that never was, or the one that can't be attemped now. From the film it seems Darrell's effort was serious and honorable.

It is safe to say it was deteriorating there. There was also some risk of it being picked over or vandalized .
 

DDoyle

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Granted, Darryl Greenamyer's attempt was serious, and he is certainly well-qualified (he is a well-respected aviator).....which ties exactly to my point. In this instance, being in a hurry and "rigging" a fuel system to the APU ultimately cost the world the aircraft....and could have easily cost someone's life. I doubt he considers the recovery successful, and no doubt regrets the decisions that led to the loss.

I'm not faulting him for his attempt - merely saying that if a relatively well-funded pro like this can make this kind of mistake cobbling stuff together for a recovery, perhaps we all shoudl be a bit more "by the book" in our recovery attempts.

It is a shame that fire destroyed the Kee Bird - but its a good thing it spread as rapidly as it did - imagine the situation had the Super Fortress been airborne when this happened?

Regards,
David Doyle
 

ARMYMAN30YearsPlus

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Having gone through a fire at sea the only thing I think would be worse would be one in the air like this one. There should have been a supression system on board as we have in our combat vehicles. My guess is that there was not a full crew on it either as the fire might have been contained like it was many times on bombers in the Eighth Air Force. One Sergent even won the Medal of Honor for his extinguishing a fire and saving the lives of several fellow crewman who were wounded. It is too bad they lost it just my thoughts
 

vtdeucedriver

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Well as a long time warbird community member and participant, I guess I should say a few things. Among the community, this topic has been discussed in many of the warbird forums since the incident.

I guess I will start by saying, no one ever hears from him anymore, nor do I think that he will ever show up at airshows either. The term "well funded" was not the case by anymeans. It was a shoestring attempt and it failed. Yes the APU tank was Jury rigged and a strap broke spilling fuel on the hot exhaust of the running APU. The APU under normal flight conditions is supposed to be running until after take off. But at this time, no take off was attempted, just taxi tests but the apu is still required to run. At the start of the fire, you can see in the footage, the nose gear fully extend and the tires leave the ice. As the fire broke out, no one was in the tail at the time and being that the B-29 was built with a large percentage of Magnesium. To put out the fire was impossible.

The sad part was that nothing was salvaged!! It was left there to fall through the ice in the spring. A good friend was asked by the team if they could borrow his serviceable B-29 prop parts that he had in his private collection. All he has now is a piece of paper stating from the team that it is his prop and another from Hamilton Standard saying that the value was $28,000!!!!!
Currently there is a B-29 being resored to fly that needs engines!!!! the R3350-29's are a problem child and are very EXPENSIVE to overhaul ( Just ask the CAF and why there B-29 has not flown in almost 3 yrs!!!) Well there are 4 LOW time fresh overhauled engines on Kee Bird when she burned. They now sit at the bottom of the lake because they did not bother to spend any more money and salvage the remainder.

In my personal feeling.............the guy is a dirtbag, and if I ever see him at a show, I will tell him so.

Sorry for the rant!
 

zak

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If the guy would have pulled it off, he probably would have been considered a hero in the warbird community. Nobody would have heard of the shortcuts. Fate is such a cruel thing.
 
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