Following a lengthy restoration by the Museum of Flight in Seattle in 2012 they had nowhere to display the Boeing B-29 Superfortress bomber “T-Square 54” (Serial Number 44-69729 on loan from the National Museum of the United States Air Force) without it being exposed to the elements. As such this 1945 veteran of 37 bombing missions in the Pacific Theatre of World War Two with the USAAF 875th Bomb Squadron, 498th Bomb Group, plus service time as a converted aerial tanker during the Korean War (1950-1953) was more or less shrink-wrapped in a protective coating and put in outdoor storage next to the museum (this was actually the first time it had been on any sort of public display since 2003. The hangar it had been restored in was scheduled to be demolished so they had no choice but to put it outside).
Jump forward a few years and 2016 not only coincides with the centenary of Boeing (July 2016) but also the opening of the new covered Aviation Pavilion at the Museum of Flight (officially opened June 25th, 2016). This meant “T-Square 54“could finally be unwrapped and put on display where everyone could see the great restoration. She sits next to a Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress (1943) and a Boeing WB-47E Stratojet (1951) to show the advances made in bomber aircraft technology and design from piston engines to jets in less than a decade.
The B-17F (Serial Number 42-29782) was initially used as a USAAF training aircraft in the United States before transferring to the European theatre in 1944. It did not see combat and after 3 months in Great Britain was shipped back to the United States where by 1945 it was placed in storage awaiting disposal. In 1946 it was stripped of its turrets, guns and equipment and sent to Stuttgart, Arkansas as a war memorial. It sat out in the open until 1953 when it was sold off into civilian hands and converted to an agricultural chemical spraying aircraft.
The B-17F was used in this spraying role until 1960, then was used to fight fires and also operated as a tanker aircraft until 1985. It also became a movie star featuring in 1,000 Plane Raid (1968), Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970) and Memphis Belle (1990). In the latter movie she was used to represent many different B-17 aircraft to represent the large number of bombers available to the USAAF during the later stages of World War Two. By 1991 the aircraft was under restoration back to a wartime configuration at the Museum of Flight and after 20 years of intensive restoration (it had seen better days) was put back on outdoor display at the museum in 2011. Today she is known as the “Boeing Bee” with cool nose art of a bee with twin 0.50 caliber guns as its stinger!
The WB-47E (Serial Number 51-7066) was operated by USAF Strategic Air Command (SAC) from 1953 – 1963 as a B-47 nuclear bomber before being converted to a WB-47 to conduct weather reconnaissance missions for the US Navy until retired in the 1970’s. Apparently they also conducted testing of atmospheric radioactive levels following above ground nuclear bomb tests by the Soviet Union and the Peoples Republic of China. The WB-47E is on loan from the National Museum of Naval Aviation at Pensacola, Florida.
The museum also has a Boeing B-52G Stratofortress bomber (1959, Serial Number 59-2584) that is currently outdoors near their restoration centre at Paine Field in Everett. This aircraft served with the USAF Strategic Air Command (SAC), including flying Operation Bullet Shot and Operation Linebacker bombing missions in 1972 during the Vietnam War. The aircraft is on loan from the National Museum of the United States Air Force and it would be great to maybe see this mighty Cold War warrior lined up with the other Boeing legends some day!