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The Last of Its Kind ...

This is not the story of a boy and his dog, it's much more compelling than that.  This is the story of a WB-50 and its pilot.  This particular pilot graduated from an institute of higher learning associated with the United States Navy, but found his way to the US Air Force.  Arriving at the 55th Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, he began a long association with the WB-50D.  He flew many, many, weather reconnaissance and atmospheric sampling sorties in the WB-50 throughout the world.  One aircraft he often flew was tail number 49-0310, one of the newer B-50s.

Here we see 310, in the center of the picture, on a ramp full of WB-50D's at
McClellan.  You can see that the external fuel tanks are not installed, but the
"bug catcher" atmospheric sampling device is clearly visible on top of the aircraft.

The pilot in our story, Colonel Pat Hanavan, USAF (Ret), became a test engineer at Wright-Patterson AFB after he was finished with his weather reconnaissance flying.  One day his boss was discussing some upcoming test programs, and wondering out loud what type aircraft would be best suited for the task.  Pat knew that the last WB-50D's had recently been delivered to Davis-Monthan.  He suggested that perhaps one of these would fit the bill.  Next thing he knew, he was on his way to Arizona.  After reviewing the various aircraft records, and physically inspecting the aircraft, 310 was selected to fly again.  Configured for the test programs, and designated as a JB-50D, 49-0310 was the last flying B-50 in the USAF, and Pat Hanavan the last fully qualified B-50 Instructor Pilot.  When it came time for 310 to again head into retirement in 1968, it was identified to regain its Weather marking, and join the USAF Museum.  Until recently, it was very visibly displayed in the outdoor area.  
(By the way, the USAF Museum is now known as the National Museum of the Air Force)

Whenever Pat went by the museum, he'd be sure to take a look at "his" aircraft.  Earlier this year he noticed that 310 was gone!  More than a little curious, Pat contacted the museum, and found out that 310 was moved into the new Cold War display in the brand new museum building.  Additionally, it was undergoing some restoration.  After hearing Pat's history with the aircraft, he, and his family, were invited in for a private tour. 

A chance to show your wife the other lady in your life

A chance to discuss the restoration efforts

Would you like to look inside?  Silly question...

The crew chief always kept her cleaner than this, but it's still home...

Here you can see that the "bug catcher" is missing

Col Hanavan has stayed in touch with the folks from the museum.  He is looking for a
dropsonde operator or special equipment operator who could assist the museum restorers in accurately reconstructing the sampling equipment, which has been lost over the last 37 years.   If you think you could help, contact him at:   PatHanavan@aol.com

Looking good in retirement, keeping history alive