The Crash of the Lake Mead Bomber


On the 21st of July, 1948, RB-29F  SN:45-21847 crashed into Lake Mead Reservoir, Nevada. The aircraft was flown out of NAWS China Lake, Armitage Field, Inyokern, California. Captain Robert M. Madison and the four man crew were participating in operation “Sun Tracker”. The purpose of this project was to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile guidance system that used the sun for direction and positioning.

Captain Robert M. Madison (rt) and his crew chatting with engineers.


The crash report states that the Star Tracker system operator requested a low pass on Lake Mead. I think the pilot just wanted to buzz the lake after a rather boring mission. The lake was glassy smooth that day and the pass was supposed to be at 300 feet. Due to the water conditions, Madison misjudged his height and hit the water.


In a wings level attitude, the B-29 skipped over the water once and came to rest hundreds of yards later where in settled wings level and sank. No MAYDAY call was made due to the abruptness of the mishap. The crew escaped without injury and then floated on Lake Mead for four and a half hours before being rescued.

Shipwreck #4 – The Secret Of Lake Mead from NPS Submerged Resources Center on Vimeo.


The wreck sat undisturbed until a private Daddy/Daughter 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 side scan sonar. Because of the equipment on board the wreck’s approximate location and mission had remained classified by the Department of Defense until 2005.

This how the wreck appears in the video game “Fallout-New Las Vegas”. It’s not accurate because three of the four engines were sheared off in the crash.

The initial depth of over 600 feet kept the wreck out of reach of only experienced deep divers. The water level of Lake Mead has now dropped to a level that allows recreational divers to tour wreck and the site is manage by the National Park Service.

Through the years, rumors have been spread that the wreck is radioactive. This is not true because the crash happened four year before the first atomic test in Nevada occurred with SHOT ABLE at 5:45 27 local time on January 1951 at Frenchman Flat, Nevada.




On the first of November, 2011, LOT Airlines Flight LO-16 a Boeing 767-300ER (SP-LPC) took off from Newark Liberty International Airport, at 12:20am Eastern Daylight Time, starting what was expected to be an 8-hour flight. Captain Tadeusz Wrona and First Officer Jerzy Szwarc at the controls, were 220 passengers and 11 crew aboard.

Flight 16 was scheduled from Newark, New Jersey to Warsaw, Poland. Thirty minutes after taking of from Newark, the 767 experienced the failure of the center hydraulic system. During the eight-hour flight, the crew coordinated with LOT Airlines maintenance to troubleshoot the hydraulic fault. Back up systems on the 767 did not make the loss of the center hydraulic system a safety of flight issue.

On final for runway 33 to Warsaw Chopin Airport, the crew try to extend the landing gear which didn’t move. At 3000 feet Captain Wrona aborted the landing and was directed to a holding pattern. For 80 minutes Flight 16 orbited the holding panel and conducted troubleshooting on the gear failure.

Captain Tadeusz Wrona

During the troubleshooting checklist the gear failed to manually extend. Captain Wrona was committed to a belly up, no gear landing. In complete control, the aircraft touched down at 140 knot airspeed. It skidded along the runway using the two engines as skids and the crew controlling the aircraft with the rudder.

The aircraft came to a stop and all passengers and crew egressed safely with minor injuries. A fuel fire on the right wing was quickly extinguished by the fire department while the egress was in progress.

The Investigation revealed the source of the hydraulic failure to be a leak from a damaged hose in the right main landing gear. The manual gear extension is initiated by an electrical switch releasing the gear locks which normally the gravity falls into a locked condition. An overarching battery bus circuit-breaker which protects several systems including the alternate landing-gear extension motor tripped. The circuit breaker is design to protect various aircraft systems including the manual gear extension.

Circuit breaker tripped.