The Army Air Forces pilot accepted into the B-29 program had to be a top-notch military aviator. To qualify for training as a B-29 aircraft commander, he had to have a minimum of five hundred hours in a four-engine bomber, either the B-17 or the B-24, and at least fifteen hundred hours of flying time. I easily met those qualifications; I had more than two thousand hours, including eight hundred as a B-24 test pilot. I felt honored to be selected. The B-29 was the top of the line -- technologically the most advanced aircraft of World War II.
Compared to the B-24, which had a 110-foot wingspan, four 1,200horsepower engines, and weighed more than 30 tons, the B-29 was a monster. It had a wingspan of 141 feet, 3 inches, and four 2,200-horsepower engines driving four-bladed propellers each 16 feet, 7 inches in diameter. It weighed more than 71 tons.
There were other refinements unique to the B-29. The crew compartments were pressurized, eliminating the need for constant use of oxygen at altitude. The defensive armament was contained in turrets remotely controlled by a sophisticated electronic system that allowed for transfer between selected gunnery stations. All stations had computing sights that were easy to operate and (properly used) produced excellent results. The B-29, with a maximum bomb load of ten tons, was capable of extremely long-range operations, making it ideally suited for the air offensive against Japan.
I was assigned to Maxwell Army Air Field at Montgomery, Alabama, for transition training. There I met my copilot and flight engineer. Unlike B-24 transition, where instruction was on an individ