click map AirPigz About mail Robert Clupper

click map 787 Caption Contest CoolPix Homebuilt Military Must See Oshkosh Racing RC Space Video Podcast

click map Perfect Paper Airplane Facebook twitter

Search AirPigz...
Popular Previous Posts




Search AirPigz 1000+ posts


« CoolPix: The Rather Amazing 1930 Handley Page H.P.42/H.P.45 (+ Video) | Main | Planes, Trains And Automobiles: The 2012 Chicago Auto Show (Feb 10-19) »

Video: Fascinating 1995 Story Of The 'Kee Bird' B-29 Salvage Attempt

 There are so many interesting stories from the world of aviation that it's easy to miss some of the really fascinating ones. One such story for me is seen in this video about the 1995 attempt to recover the B-29 Kee Bird from a frozen resting place in northwest Greenland. The effort was led Darryl Greenamyer, a man who has had a most incredible life in the sky. He was my hero when I was a kid watching him race the F8F Bearcat known as Conquest 1 at Reno in the late 60's. His experiences include flying the SR-71 at Lockheed's Skunk Works, over 40 years of air racing, and unusual projects like working to set speed records in a modified F-104. Those stories I knew about, but a long lost B-29 in Greenland, and the effort to bring it back home... somehow, that's a story I had missed.

 This video is a segment from a 1996 NOVA special on the salvage attempt titled B-29 Frozen In Time. This is the last segment and it runs 10 minutes. If you really want to experience the entire story, you can click this link to go to the full listing of all the segments on youtube.

 To get as far as they did in retrieving this incredibly rare aircraft, only to lose it as they did is disheartening to say the least. But seeing the level of self-control as they watch the airplane burn is a real lesson in realizing that there's only so much we can control in this life.

Video screenshot of the B-29 Kee Bird on fire during the salvage attempt in 1995

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments (8)

Perhaps it would have been impractical or too expensive, but I've always wondered why they didn't just use a heavy lift helicopter to ferry the B-29 to an airfield. It would have been much less dramatic, but it seems like it would have been easier.

February 15, 2012 | Unregistered Commentereponymous

Unfortunately, the B-29 weighs about 74,000 lb empty. The best lift capacities on helicopters are about 20,000 to 30,000 lb. Major disassembly would have been required - remove engines, remove wings - much more since fuselage is almost 100 ft long and wings are about 65 ft each.

February 15, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterairpigz lurker

Impatience is what burned the Kee Bird to the ground. After all that time, $, and all those trips, let alone a guy dying, Greenameyer could'nt wait for another minute or two to be sure the generator was secure. A terrible waste.

February 15, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterseerjfly

As great a pilot as he was, Greenamyer sure broke a lot of hearts with his lame and overly rushed attempt at recovering Kee Bird. With only a few B-29s left, nothing should have been left to chance. If a B-29 had been sitting in an air-conditioned hanger for 60 year,s you would take the time to thoroughly check out every system before strapping it to your butt and taking to the air. There are many professional aircraft salvage outfits that could have helped but that would have meant a share of the spoils. Now, all the world is left with is a few salvaged pieces. Damn shame. I guess you can tell which side of this debate I fall on.

February 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTerence

I understand the frustration many have with the result of this salvage attempt, but I'm not prepared to beat Darryl or anyone else up for what happened. I don't think we have enough information to make that judgement. Have any of us seen exactly how the apu fuel tank was installed? Without that knowledge we really can't determine if it was really a faulty installation or just a fluke. Are we even 100% sure that was the cause?

The calm reaction of the men as they sit and watch the airplane burn tells me that even in the face of all the extremely hard work they have done, they understand that it's only an airplane burning. The value of the airplane from an eternal point of view is zero. Only the human life has value... and the fire that severely damaged the B-29 didn't severely damage any people.

And when you consider how the fire could have been slower to spread and may have not been noticed until airborne, I'd say they were all very fortunate it turned out as it did.

In my 51 years on earth, more often than not, life has shown me that I'm not in control of very much of what happens. I think this story is a great example of this.

February 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMartt (admin)

When I watched the video years ago and saw how impatient and aggressive D.G. was getting with the crew toward the end. I could'nt help but think of a few people I've worked with, in and out of aviation who had that same trait. Just calling it like I see it, Martt. He called for generator shut down and started a fast taxi over rough ground while a guy who had no experience with aircraft or mechanical knowledge was put in charge of securing it. That was one observation. The guy (the crew cook) said before he could secure the gen. the plane started moving and he fell, unable to reach it and his head set was pulled off his head. In the ensuing bumps, the gas can, hanging from the overhead by a coat hanger or safety wire (can't remember which for sure) fell into the generator and well, we know what happened, then. These are not exact quotes from the vid or book, only from my failing memory.
I'm with you in the respect of 'screw the airplane, we did'nt lose anyone'.

February 16, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterseerjfly

I disagree with Martt (admin) in this statement: "Only the human life has value... and the fire that severely damaged the B-29 didn't severely damage any people."
Someone lost his life working hard to bring this bird to the air again, the chief mechanic made a great effort to make a dream come true, so we can say that he gave all and the best of him for nothing, for the mistake of a last minute hurry. So sad.

April 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCarlos

it is still so lucky for them that the plan was fired on ground, what happen if it took place in sky. the precious thing here i believe that the team can do a extraordinary work, not the plan itseft. look at the way they replace the tire, disassemply the propeller in sever weather condition make me touched

June 15, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterkiet

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>