Recently, while I was reading the excellent thread about the Strategic Air Command, mention was made of the B-58 Hustler super-sonic bomber. It seems that many people are still very "captivated" by that airplane. I have always been among those people, I guess because I was fortunate to be "around" when the Hustler first went into service.
I decided to do a search on the type and refresh my memory of it; this search ended up taking a couple of days, reading through several dozen excellent web sites, and I ended up finding out a lot about this fantastic A/C that I was unaware of.
The B-58 was truly a radical departure from any other bomber of it's time, and there were many things about it that were unique to that one plane.
World's first mach 2 bomber
Only medium bomber flown by one pilot
Unlike most mach 2 fighters, the Hustler could sustain Mach 2 speed for hours, rather than minutes
I had already read quite a lot about the Hustler, primarily about it's many accidents, and before now, I had always thought of it as a "death trap" of an airplane. As it turns out, even though it was an extremely complex plane, and very "unforgiving" if not flown properly, it actually had a pretty fair safety record as long as it was flown EXACTLY "by the book". (which required a VERY well trained crew, doing EVERYTHING "just right")
The B-58 had a most unusual crew arrangement; all three crewmen sat one behind the other, each one separated by about six feet from the one in front of him; access to each crew station was gained only by a single, forward raising "hatch", and each one had to climb down into the seat, which was actually inside of an "escape pod".
Now.....everyone who has ever admired this sleek looking bird, has marveled at it's sleek wind-screen; what few realize is......the pilot is the ONLY crew member who can actually see out of that cockpit ! The navigator / bombardier who sits about 6 feet behind the pilot, has a very small, 6 inch square "window" on each side of, (and very close to) his head. And that's the extent of what he can see........nothing forward or backward, just a 6 in. square window on either side ! The third crew member has the "strangest" job of all; the "DSO" or defensive systems operator AND
he also helps the pilot manage all of the complex systems needed to keep the plane flying, such a fuel management, engine parameters, etc; almost everything a copilot normally does, even though he too only has two small 6 inch square windows to see out of ; Kinda like a co-pilot with no flight controls, and can't see where he's going !
Incidentally, when training to fly the Hustler, all pilots are "teamed" with a DSO, and the two do all of their training and later flying , as a team. The navigator / bombardiers train separately, but when they complete training, they join a team, and the three usually remain as a team.
Another thing about the B-58 you will notice when you see a photo of one sitting on a ramp; the landing gear; the plane appears to be sitting on "stilts"........the gear legs are soooo long; and check out those wheels and tires......(or are those roller skates ?) Here again, the Hustler falls prey to it's supersonic design; to go mach 2, you MUST have a very thin wing; to have any space to retract the landing gear into, you need a "thick" wing; well, the thing has to go fast, so instead of normal wheels and tires, the Hustler has........roller skates ! Anyone familiar with brakes on airplanes ( quite a few around here ), know that heavy planes landing fast create a LOT of heat; (with normal sized brake rotors and wheels) The B-58 touches down PDQ; ( pretty damned quick) (but AND
Irtysh-Avia (Kazakhstan)">IT has dinky, "pint-sized" wheels, so as a consequence, a lot of Hustlers had a lot of very hot brakes (and the accidents that go with them).
The B--58 was...
Length-- 97 ft.
Wing Span--57 ft.
Weight (empty) 55,561 lbs.
Weight (MTOW) 163,000 lbs.
Max speed 1,321 MPH
Service ceiling-- 62,999 ft.
On one refueled flight, a B-58 flew non-stop from Tokyo to London in 8 hrs. 35 min. ( 1962 )
So, summing it all up........for me, the most remarkable thing about the whole B-58 program.........the "stamina" and endurance of three men to sit, strapped into a "pod" / ejection seat, for many missions lasting 8 hours, and being unable to stand up, relieve themselves, and for two of them, with only two dinky, 6inch square windows to see out of, and after 3, 4, even 5 yrs of this, they STILL say they "loved it" !
Below are a few photos showing the access hatches open, and the dinky little side windows.
Stupidity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result; Albert Einstein