The scientific tourist #85 — WB-47

If you’ve ever seen the movie Strategic Air Command, you’ll recognize this aircraft right away — it’s a WB-47 (originally a B-47, later converted to fly weather reconnaissance missions) at the Museum of Flight in Seattle:

B-47s haven’t flown for years, but they were cutting edge for their time. The B-47 was the world’s first large multi-engine swept-wing aircraft — and aside from a different wing mounting, set the pattern for essentially all modern-day commercial aircraft (note the pod-mounted engines suspended below the wings — very radical then).

But that wasn’t the plan at the time — originally, the B-47 started as a way to bomb Nazi Germany from bases in the U.S. in the event that Great Britain was overrun. But the threatened invasion of Britain didn’t occur and WWII ended before the plane flew, so it wound up being the core of the U.S. strategic bomber fleet during the 1950’s and early 1960’s. When it first flew, even escort fighters of the time had trouble keeping pace with it.

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