A B-36 bomber from the 334th bomb squadron when flying from El Paso, Texas to Albuquerque New Mexico on May 22nd, 1957 accidentally dropped one of the world’s most powerful hydrogen bombs.
At that time, the bomb was being transported for routine maintenance and at that time, there was only one aircraft in the world that can accomplish that task- that’s the Convair B-36, considered one of the most unique bombers in the history of military aviation.
At the beginning of 1941, the United States Army Air Corps requested the development of a new super bomber. Although the US didn’t join the war yet, it wanted to develop a bomber capable of reaching Europe and then returning to bases in North America.
Although temporarily placed on hold, the project resumed when the US needed a bomber that could reach the territory in Japan from Hawaii bases. Convair won, receiving the designation B-36, and the US Army Air Force immediately placed an order for 100 new bombers.
The Convair B-3 which unofficially received the name Peacemaker and is an exceptional piece of engineering. One of its distinctive features was the unusual placement of its engines.
It’s equipped with six of the most powerful Pratt and Whitney engines mounted in a pusher configuration. This layout was picked to decrease the drag, providing a positive effect on enhancing the aircraft’s flight range.
One of the aircraft’s most significant features is its gigantic size. Even up to this day, the B-36 remains one of the largest mass-produced piston-powered aircraft in aviation history.
One of the best WWII bombers, the B-29 Superfotress which had seemed like a giant before, looked modest in comparison, and can easily fit under the wing of the B-36.
The B-36 piloted by Capt. Richard Meyer prepared to land at Kirkland Air Force Base on the outskirts of Albuquerque. Because it was just a short flight from Texas to New Mexico, the aircraft was relatively lightweight. When the plane is in the final approach, the 1st Lt began moving back towards the Bombay.
However, the bomb release mechanism on the B-36 had a locking pin inserted in the mechanism at all times preventing the inflight release of bombs. However, before takeoff and landing standard operating procedure required manual removal of the lock-in pin.
However, after pulling out the pin, the huge thermonuclear bomb suddenly dropped from its sling, broke the Bombay doors with its weight, and fell out. Fortunately, the plutonium capsule needed to store the chain reaction in the bomb had not been inserted, and otherwise no danger of nuclear explosion.
However, the fall caused the detonation of conventional explosives within the bomb, raising a great cloud of dust in the sky after the explosion. It fell about seven kilometers from Kirkland Air Force Base and fortunately, there were no people injured on the ground.
The accident didn’t cause any negative consequences to the careers of the crew, however, the incident remained classified until the 1980s.