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Edition 3: Boeing B-29 "Big Time Operator"

Updated: Apr 27, 2022

The Boeing B-29 Superfortress was an American heavy bomber which was designed, built and operated during the Second World War. In May of 1944, the B-29 was introduced into service, and by late 1945, the Superfortress had left its mark not only on the war in the Pacific, but also in the history books. The B-29 Superfortress was instrumental in bringing a close to the second World War and goes down in history as the only aircraft to have employed Nuclear weapons in combat.

In early 1938, the B-17 Flying Fortress entered service as an answer to the US Army's request for a heavy bomber. That same year, military high command noted that the B-17 would be inadequate for long range bombing, a task that would soon become a reality for the U.S bomber fleet. In 1938, Boeing began to design the model 334, an aircraft loosely based off of the B-17 Superfortress. In 1940, the US Air Corps formally set out the requirements for the new bomber: it was to carry 20,000lb of bombs to a target 2,667 miles away at a speed of 400mph. Boeing submitted their design in May of 1940, in competition with designs from Consolidated Aircraft, Lockheed and Douglas. Boeing's design would be victorious in the competition; they soon received orders to produce prototypes, designated the XB-29, and subsequent orders for production aircraft.

The B-29 Superfortress was the most advanced aircraft of its time. It featured several technological advances including remote controlled turrets, and a fully pressurized cabin.

The B-29 Superfortress entered service in 1944, and primarily saw combat in the Pacific theatre. In March of 1945, a night mission took place in which more than 300 B-29s dropped incendiary bombs on Tokyo. The attacks destroyed majority of the city, leaving tens of thousands of Japanese people dead, and hundreds of thousands displaced. Just five months later, on the morning of August 6, 1945, the B-29 “Enola Gay” would change the world forever by dropping the worlds first atomic bomb on Hiroshima. The bomb had horrific effects on the people and land in the immediate vicinity of the bombing. This became the first use of a nuclear weapon in combat, and would give birth to a new age of war and foreign policy. Just three days later, another B-29, nicknamed “Bockscar” would drop a second atomic bomb, this time unleashing mass destruction on the city of Nagasaki. These two bombs forced the surrender of the Japanese just a month later, bringing an end to the bloodiest conflict in human history.

Our B-29 Superfortress; “The Big Time Operator” has quite a history. The aircraft was built in Wichita, Kansas and entered service in late 1944. Throughout 1945, “The Big Time Operator” flew 46 combat missions with the 1st Bomb Squadron. Missions ranged from bombing strategic infrastructure, such as aircraft component factories, to naval mining operations. During its service, “The Big Time Operator” was accredited with downing two Japanese aircraft. Post war, like many other B-29s, “The Big Time Operator” was transferred to the China Lake Naval Weapons Station to be used as a ground target. After decades sitting in the desert sun, the cockpit and tail gunner section of “The Big Time Operator” were rescued before the rest of the aircraft was scrapped.

These highly limited Plane Chains are made from the skin of the tail gunner section from B-29 serial number 42-24791, otherwise known as “The Big Time Operator”. When the opportunity arose, the Plane Chains crew was eager to obtain the tail gunner section. Aside from knowing that our tail section came off a B-29 from China Lake, our crew didn’t know much else about the history of the section. That was until a serial number matching that of “The Big Time Operator” was discovered along the underside of the section while removing the damaged skin. Both the nose and tail of “Big Time Operator” were saved from China Lake before the rest of the aircraft was scrapped.

The Plane Chains crew is extremely honored to have had the opportunity to give an aircraft as special as “Big Time Operator” a new life in the hands of aviation enthusiasts.

Visit our shop today to claim your very own piece of this B-29 Superfortress!

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