The bizarre tale of what happens to a
four- engine airplane when it decides to become a single- engine aircraft
was told when LT. H.G. Thomason and crew landed here recently.
The 31st Strat. Recon. B-29 was out on a 14 hour mission, a routine
flight until they reached the southern tip of Japan. The pilot dropped
the 1944 model B-29 down to the 1500 foot level for a quick look around
and brought her back upstairs for the return trip to Okinawa. That's
when all hell hit the fan - three of them, as a matter of fact. Number
3 engine decided that it wasn't running fast enough, took the bit
in it's teeth and started to wind up. It reached 3900 rpm before the
crew got hold of it again, by a lucky job of feathering.
Then number 1 engine took a notion to get in a few fast rounds. It's
runaway sent the tach to 3700 rpm. While that engine was being feathered,
number 2 started to burn. Among other things it took feathering to
extinguish the fire at which time the airplane was flying on a single
engine operation, quite a feat in the four - engine flying game. Despite
the fact that the pilots were applying full right rudder and losing
altitude to retain critical airspeed, the '29 did a 360 degree tern
to the left under these unusual power conditions.
To make matters worse number 3 decided that it had had and made up
for it by rotating backwards at a very high speed. About this time
Flight Engineer T/Sgt Stone was heard to remark, " If anyone
so much as mentions number 4 you will be without an engineer"
The desperate airplane had lost 3500 feet at this time and with high
terrain ahead some attempt had to be made to get more power. It was
found possible to bring back number 1 engine, which gave out with
2200 rpm under forced draft. It's operation at least aligned the thrust
force and took the load off right rudder. Then number 3, although
smoking, came back to partial life with 1900 unwilling rpm.
With this boost, the B-29 was taken to 7000 feet. 1000 from it's altitude
at which trouble set in. Air Rescue was out to find the '29 in the
water by this time, but it had it's nose pointed for Itazuke AB and
was beginning to make some time. An RB-17 from Ashiya came alongside
for escort, just in case, but the worried crew made Itazuke and a
two and one-half engine landing.
Commented Lt. Thomason "There was nothing at all normal about
that landing. We just pointed it down toward the ground". When
told that the whole thing lasted less than 10 minutes the pilot demanded:
"It had to be at least 30. How else could I have set the ditching
braces four or five times, made six position reports, put on a parachute
and lost 10 pounds in six or seven minutes ? No sir: it can't be done"