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Bill Jones SCUBA Divers Find Mysterious B-29a
  Copyright 2003    Bill Jones    World Rights Reserved

Las Vegas, Nevada.   SCUBA divers using side scan sonar (Marine Sonic Sea Scan PC with a 300 kHz Towfish) have located a World War II-era Boeing B-29a Superfortress (Serial No. 45-21847) .  Until last summer, the plane has been resting untouched, unseen, sitting up right and largely intact in 260 feet of water at the bottom of Lake Mead.   The military aircraft crashed 54 years ago on what should have been a routine mission.  Earlier attempts at finding the plane were unsuccessful resulting in this B-29a becoming the stuff of mystery stories, conspiracy theories, and local myth.

On July 21, 1948 the Superfortress took off from Armitage Field in Inyokern, California on a solar radiation measurement mission.  Two hours and forty-five minutes into the flight during a low pass over Lake Mead, the bomber scraped the surface of the water at 240 mph ripping engines 2, 3, and 4 from their wing mounts.  Port side engine 1, still attached to the wing, was running and on fire.  Considerable port stabilizer and skin damage had occurred to the underside of the aircraft.  The plane bounced, flew, stalled, and crashed into the lake again.  Twelve minutes later, the wreckage sank, leaving enough time for crewmembers to climb aboard a rubber raft.  All five were rescued that afternoon.

The National Park Service assumed title to this vintage Superfortress in 1994 from the Air Force and has the authority to decide whether to raise the 141,000-pound aircraft or to leave it alone and untouched.  The dive team, lead by Gregg Mikolasek, has spent several months documenting, photographing, and videotaping the wreck site.  Special diving gas blends and decompression tables were needed for these depths.  Federal underwater archaeology experts were also brought in to assess and document the site.

The plane was found in the Overton area of Lake Mead, about 60 miles northeast of Las Vegas.  Lake Mead is a man-made lake created by the Hoover Dam and is on the Colorado River between Nevada and Arizona.  The dam was completed in 1935. It required four more years to completely fill the lake.

On Aug. 6, 1945, a Superfortress (similar to this one) named Enola Gay dropped the world's first atomic bomb on Hiroshima.  Three days later, another Superfortress named Bockscar dropped the second atomic bomb on Nagasaki.  A B-29a bomber has a wingspan of 142 feet, a length of 99 feet, and a height of 27 feet.

Editor Note:  Bill Jones, The Scuba Guy, is a PADI Master Instructor and a Published and Award-Winning Writer
 

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