The true story of the B29 Kee Bird who crash landed after a spy mission in the cold war. Plus the attempted recovery of the Kee Bird.
The Kee Bird crashes twice!
The Kee Bird was the call-sign of a Boeing B29-95-BW Superfortress bomber. The B29 Bomber was made world famous as being the American bomber that dropped two Atomic bombs on Japan in 1945, which effectively ended the second world war.
The Kee Bird on the ice in 1995.
The B29 was designed with flying to Japan in mind. Some engineers nick-named the aircraft as the “Flying cigar” which referred to the long silver fuselage of the B29. Boeing’s B29 was the first fully pressurised bomber in the world.
This step forward was greatly received by the aircrew. Instead of the pilots and gunners wearing cumbersome flight suits and leather jackets, the aircrew could wear lighter flight gear which made the whole experience of long flights more bearable.
The classic B29 in flight.
The B29 also had remote controlled gun turrets, which also had a redundancy feature. This meant if a gunner was hit by enemy fire in combat another gunner could remotely fire his machine guns for him, it was a quantum leap forward in technology.
After WWII the B29 Superfortress found many new roles as transports and research aircraft. Some B29’s such as the Kee-Bird were used as spy planes. The spy B29’s were to be launched from Alaska and flew over the North pole and photograph military installations and nuclear testing of Atomic bombs.
On the 20th of February 1947 Lt Vern H Arnett took the Kee Bird to the skies with his crew of eleven men. Specialist cameras were mounted around the B29 and the crew were briefed on possible targets of interest. The mission seemed to be going well as the previous six spying missions had been.
A B29 on photographic mission!
On the return journey from the North pole to Alaska a radio message was received, which stated the B29 Kee Bird was in trouble! A seasonal low sun was blinding the pilot. To make matters much worse a storm was encountered by Kee Bird at 24,000ft. The Kee Bird was lost, please bear in mind there was no GPS and the crew were flying over featureless miles of snow.