Samiksha Jaiswal (Editor)

1948 Lake Mead Boeing B 29 crash

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Passengers  0
Survivors  5
Site  Lake Mead
Injuries (nonfatal)  0
Survivor  5
Crew  5
Registration  45-21847
Date  21 July 1948
Operator  United States Air Force
Passenger count  0
1948 Lake Mead Boeing B-29 crash B29 Super Fortress Lake Mead ADVANCED DIVER MAGAZINE by Mel Clark
Summary  Controlled flight into terrain (CFIT) due to pilot error
Aircraft type  Boeing F-13 Superfortress
Similar  1948 Australian National, British European Airways F, 1948 Heathrow Disaster, Northwest Airlines Flight 421, Northwest Airlines Flight 4422

The 1948 Lake Mead Boeing B-29 crash occurred 21 July 1948 when a Boeing B-29-100-BW Superfortress, modified into an F-13 reconnaissance platform and performing atmospheric research, crashed into the waters of Lake Mead, Nevada, US.



On 13 September 1945, “Lake Mead’s B-29,” serial number 45-21847, was put into service. In 1947 it was stripped of armaments, re-classified as a reconnaissance B-29 (F-13), and moved into the Upper Atmosphere Research Project. The purpose of this project was to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile guidance system that used the sun for direction and positioning. The system was known as "Sun Tracker", and to test it a plane capable of high-altitude flight followed by a rapid low-level flight was needed. The B-29 was a useful test platform as it was the first mass-produced aircraft with a pressurized cockpit, and after World War II there were many surplus B-29s available.


On 21 July 1948 after completing a run to 30,000 feet (9,100 m) east of Lake Mead, Captain Robert M. Madison and the crew began a descent and leveled out just over 300 feet (91 m) above the surface of Lake Mead. The crew described the lake as looking like a mirror, with the sun reflecting brightly off the surface. These conditions make judging height above a surface considerably more difficult. The aircraft then slowly began to descend below 100 ft (30 m) until it struck the surface at 250 mph (400 km/h) and started skipping along it. Three of the aircraft's four engines were ripped from its wings and the fourth burst into flames. The aircraft managed to gain around 250 ft (76 m) but then settled back onto the water's surface in a nose-up attitude and slowly skiing to a stop. The five-man crew then evacuated into two liferafts and watched the aircraft sink.

1948 Lake Mead Boeing B-29 crash sanctuariesnoaagovmaritimeimagesb293jpg

The crew was rescued from the lake six hours later and was instructed not to disclose any details of the flight, its mission or its loss. As the mission was classified, these details were not released until fifty years later.

1948 Lake Mead Boeing B-29 crash B29 Bomber Lake Mead National Recreation Area US National Park

In 2001 a private dive team led by Gregg Mikolasek of In Depth Consulting found the wreck of the B-29 in the Overton Arm of Lake Mead, using sidescan sonar. Because the bomber lay inside a National Recreation Area, responsibility for the site fell to the National Park Service.

1948 Lake Mead Boeing B-29 crash The Bomber at the Bottom of Lake Mead

In 2007 the National Park Service opened the B-29 Lake Mead Overton site to private companies to conduct Guided Technical Dives on the Site. One company was Scuba Training and Technology Inc. /Tech Diving Limited based in Arizona. Their permit was renewed in 2008. In 2009 the National Park Service closed the B-29 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 was awarded the Commercial Use Authorization again and diving commenced beginning April 2015.

B-29 Serial No. 45-21847

The bomber itself is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The National Park Service (NPS) opened the B-29's wreck site to divers under very strict conditions in July 2007 for a six-month trial. Despite being pleased with the overall preservation of the site by the two commercial use authorization (CUA) operations, the NPS closed the B-29 site for diving in 2008.


1948 Lake Mead Boeing B-29 crash Wikipedia

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