B-47 Stratojet key piece of McConnell history

  • Published
  • By Jennifer Hunt
  • 22nd Air Refueling Wing History Office
People might have noticed the B-47 Stratojet on static display in McConnell's airpark located next to Rock Road.

Base personnel have twice restored the aircraft and maintain the aircraft and its grounds in tribute to the role it played in the history of McConnell and the U.S. Air Force. 

The Boeing B-47 Stratojet not only ushered Wichita aviation into the jet era, it was the first of many aviation innovations to come. The B-47 was also responsible for the opening of Wichita Air Force Base, which became the world's first bomber-training base for the B-47. 

With the onset of World War II, aircraft manufacturers focused most of their efforts on military aircraft production. When World War II ended, Wichita looked for a boost in sales and production for its aircraft manufacturers. Boeing continued with aircraft modification programs for the military and other civilian projects. Full production resumed in 1950 with Boeing's venture into the world of jet power. 

Tensions rose between the United States and Soviet Union at the onset of the Cold War and made aircraft innovations necessary. The B-47 Stratojet represented the future of military strategic airpower at the time. With its distinctive sweptback wings and six-jet engines in pods, Boeing mass-produced this revolutionary aircraft for the Air Force.
After its initial introduction to the world in 1947, Boeing began speedy production of the B-47. 

A unique feature of the design was the addition of internal solid-state rockets to provide additional thrust during critical takeoffs. Far advanced for its time, the B-47 made countless breakthroughs in transoceanic flight. It set two transatlantic speed records in the 650 mph range and was the first jet to fly over the North Pole. It also flew more than 21,000 miles non-stop using aerial refueling. 

With the success of the B-47 came the need for a modern tanker. The pre-existing piston-engine KC-97 tanker could not match the altitude and airspeed of the B-47. The jet bomber required a jet tanker. The KC-135 proved to be well suited for refueling the B-47. 

McConnell was born out of the necessity for facilities focused on jet-age aircraft. The 3520th Combat Crew Training Wing, Air Training Command, opened the base under the command of Colonel H.R. Spicer. Intensive training for the three-man crews of the B-47 was the base's primary mission. 

After 20 years of its operational Air Force career, the B-47 was retired because of a rapid increase in technology - best represented by the B-52 Stratofortress. However, the B-47's swept-wing design continues to be used on many large jet aircraft flying today.