Update: Up in Smoke

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Outside magazine, August 1995

Update: Up in Smoke
By Carl Hoffman

"We made hundreds of repairs and improvisations, and one of them failed--but how can you think of everything?"

So said Darryl Greenamyer, an adventure pilot who last spring attempted to complete a unique fix-and-fly salvage of Kee Bird, a rare B-29 bomber that crashed in remote northern Greenland in 1947 (see "Spread Your Props and Fly!" Dispatches, May). Disappointingly, Greenamyer's long-standing goal--to fly the plane back to civilization and offer it for sale to some deep-pocketed aircraft buff--ended with a pyrotechnic fizzle. Shortly into his first taxi, black smoke poured from the cockpit, forcing him and his crew of three to pile out. Within minutes, fire engulfed the tail and fuselage. Greenamyer watched helplessly as his dream melted onto the ice.

That morning, his team had finished up the estimated half-million-dollar rehab operation--it had taken three years and three separate missions--with everything running perfectly. Alas, but for one detail: The fuel pump on the auxiliary generator was broken, so the crew wire-mounted the tank to the wall for a gravity feed. During takeoff, the tank shook and probably splashed fuel onto a hot generator or wires.

"It might not have happened if we'd checked it again," a devastated Greenamyer said. "What a waste--because she would have flown."

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