Built by Boeing during 1945 in Wichita, Kansas. Constructor Number 13741. On September 13, 1945 delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-29-100-BW Superfortress serial number 45-21847.
Converted to F-13 photo reconnaissance version at at the Oklahoma City Air Depot at Tinker Army Air Field. During the remainder of 1945, based at Chino Army Air Field and Victorville Army Air Field. During early 1946 modified for cold weather operations at Warner Robins Air Depot at Robins Army Air Field completed in April.
In June of 1946 assigned to Fairchild Army Air Field. In April 1947 assigned to Muroc Flight Test Base (Edwards AFB) in California. Afterwards, to the Sacramento Air Depot (SAD) at McClellan Army Air Field for modification into an RB-29 with all armament removed.
On September 18, 1947 transfered to the U. S. Air Force (USAF) and as RB-29 Superfortress 45-21847. Afterwards, assigned to Naval Ordnance Test Station (NOTS) at Naval Air Weapons Station Inyokern (NAS China Lake).
California physicist Dr. Carl Anderson contacted the government to request use of a large aircraft for secret testing in conjunction with "Project Apollo" to study upper atmospheric conditions for a ballistic-missile guidance system that allowed navigation by tracking the sun. This aircraft was fitted a "sun tracker" to test for use in Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) and for upper air research in conjunction with rockets tested at White Sands Missile Range.
On July 21, 1948 took off from Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake piloted by Captain Robert Madison on a research flight. Aboard were four USAF crew and one civilian contractor, John Simeron. First, this Superfortress climbed to 30,000' over the Grand Canyon area then dove to 100'-300' above Lake Mead in Nevada at a speed of 230mph bound for NAWS China Lake.
Flying low, Madison became disoriented and struck the surface of Lake Mead and skipping across the surface. During the impact, three engines ripped off and the fourth caught fire before it came to a stop on the surface. The five crew were able to escape and deploy life rafts before the aircraft sank. Injured in the crash was Sgt Frank Rico who sustained a broken arm.
Fates of the Crew
Six hours later, the crew were rescued by National Park Service (NPS) employees. The mission and the crash were deemed classified and information was not released on the incident.
The Superfortress sank to the bottom largely intact aside for the three engines that tore off during the crash landing. The presence of this wreck was known and prior to the official discovery divers looted artifacts from the bomber. Also know as the "Lake Mead B-29".
During 2001, this Superfortress was located using side scan sonar at a depth of 170' by In Depth Consulting led by Gregg Mikolasek in the Overton Arm of Lake Mead. The wreckage was inside a recreation area overseen by the National Parks Service (NPS).
Afterwards, the National Parks Service became custodian of this Superfortress and it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
On October 30-31, 2002 the National Park Service conducted a survey was conducted using remotely operated vehicle (ROV) piloted by Bob Christ. The bomber had evidence of ropes and objects removed due to unauthorized dives prior to the 2001 discovery.
In 2003, National Park Service’s Submerged Resources Center (SRC) including Dr. David Conlin conducted a survey to map and document the Superfortress.
In July 2007 a fixed mooring was placed nearby to prevent anchor damage from boats diving the bomber. The National Park Service started a six-month trial on the B-29 Lake Mead Overton site to private companies to conduct Guided Technical Dives. One company was Scuba Training and Technology Inc. / Tech Diving Limited based in Arizona. Despite being pleased with the overall preservation of the site by the two commercial use authorization operations, the NPS closed the B-29 site for diving in 2008 for further conservation efforts.
In December 2014 NPS solicited applications for private dive companies to resume guided dive operations. Scuba Training and Technology Inc. / Tech Diving Limited were awarded the Commercial Use Authorization again and diving resumed in April 2015.
In January 2018 the B-29 has become a protected cultural resource, and diving ceased again. On July 21, 2018 the NPS conducted a condition assessment was made of the bomber on the 70th anniversary of the crash landing.
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-29-100-BW Superfortress 45-21847
"21847 to B-29F electronic reconnaissance aircraft used in Arctic conditions. Crashed into Lake Mead, NV during research flight July 21, 1948. Crew of 5 was able to scramble away before the plane sank. Has been located by sonar in 170 feet of water. Largely intact except for 3 missing engines. The flight was for a secret missile guidance system that allowed navigation by tracking of the Sun. A low pass over calm water with pilot error put it into the lake."
YouTube "The Lake Mead B-29"
July 21, 2018
National Parks Service (NPS) "Historic B-29 Bomber"
Las Vegas Now "The Mystery of Lake Mead" July 27, 2001
NPS Lake Mead B-29 Inspection After Action Review October 30-31, 2002 [PDF]
Smithsonian Magazine "Dive Bomber" October 2005
Advanced Diver Magazine "B-29 Super Fortress Lake Mead National Recreation Area by Mel Clark
NPS "Permit Awarded, Dives Resume on B-29 Submerged in Lake Mead" April 23, 2015
YouTube "Dive the B-29; WWII bomber sits on the bottom of Lake Mead" May 4, 2015
AvGeekery "An RB-29 On a Secret Cold War Mission. What Could Go Wrong?" July 20, 2015
Fox5 "Lake Mead NPS to commemorate 70th anniversary of B-29 bomber crash" July 20, 2018
FoxNews "70 years after B-29 crash in Vegas, new footage of wreckage is released" by Andrew Craft July 24, 2018
Boulder City Review "Crash course in history: Story of B-29 at bottom of Lake Mead shared" July 25, 2018
National Register of Historic Places No: 11000212 B-29 Serial No. 45-21847 (Heavy Bomber)
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July 25, 2018