B-52 stratofortress: why EIGHT engines?

The B-36 tunnel was so long that you didn’t crawl between compartments. You rode a wheeled trolley (powered by hand-over-handing along a suspended cable). The aft compartment wasn’t just a tail gunner’s position: it had bunks and a galley.

They designed the Peacemaker to remain in the air on station for days.

That’s what got me wondering about it. I built a model of a B-29 once and I remember the tunnel (more like a pipe) running along the top of the bomb bay.

So a B-52 tail gunner was on his own from takeoff to touchdown. Missions could be long; I assume there was a lavatory of some sort back there.

Per this article, I tend to doubt it: The B-52 Gunners - Air Force Magazine Describing the space as “like a coffin, but with a great view,” would seem to eliminate that as a possibility.

But yet, here’s a Quora answer from someone who claimed to do that job, stating there was not only a “relief tube” but an actual chemical toilet pack in the rear:

Yes! The toilet on a B-52… depends on which models you’re referring to. In the earlier aircraft where the gunner sat in the tail (B-52D and F predominantly - the Tall-Tails) there was a “potty” up front and another in the tail as well as the aforementioned “piss can” (urinal) up front against the rear wall (downstairs) and a “relief tube” in the tail. I never flew up front on a tall tail, always in the back. The relief tube in the tail was pretty straight foreword. You squeezed a trigger on the side (always first) and pee’d into the opening. The cabin pressurization forced “it” through a tube and out the bottom of the fuselage. The potty however was an exercise in flexibility. The gunners compartment (the 49 Section) was narrow, about 4 feet wide. There was electronic equipment on the right side (right behind your left elbow - remember you’re sitting backwards). To get to the “facility” it was necessary to;

  1. Get your feet up in the seat, on the survival pack that is your seat cushion with your back firmly against the overhead window frames.
  2. Reach down and pull up on the seat adjuster and move the seat all the way rearward (pushing your face into the radar mask) so you can move to Step 3.
  3. Pull up on the seat-back adjustment so you can reach back and lay the seat back horizontal.
  4. “Duck-walk” (on your knees) backward along the sides of the seat back (not on your parachute) to get to where you can “move”, as in feet on the floor, bent way over at the waist and bent also at the knees (4 ft wide, 4.5 feet high, maybe).
  5. Get your flight suit down around your calves or ankles, followed by your long underwear. Don’t let your skin touch any of the equipment or structure since the temperature of such is COLD to the touch. Now you’re facing forward.
  6. Pull the potty out from it’s hiding place under the equipment rack and get your liner (yard & garden bag, etc.) in place. Your oxygen hose is dangling down as well as your intercom cord since you have your helmet on. Don’t try and move around without it, there are too many places to whack your head (tight quarters). You thought the lav on an airliner was tight!
  7. NOW, maneuver around to the front side of said potty and get your “self” into the correct position, to CAREFULLY set your butt down on the COLD plastic seat.
  8. At this point your feet are hanging down in the space you crawled up through to get to your seat before takeoff and you are face-to-face (8”) with part of the insulation curtain. Are you sure you REALLY need to go? It’s only 6 more hours until we land!
  9. OK, let’s get set up here. At your left elbow is an intercom panel and an oxygen panel. Good idea to get hooked up to both since you’ve alerted the crew that you will be out of your seat to take a dump and now the pilot needs to know you’re on the pot and strapped in. Oh yeah, fasten your seatbelt, just like on the airline.

I rode through a bomb run at the Hawthorn RBS site one night (0200) strapped on the potty. I was so sick!

OK, now that you’re PD (post-dump) you need to do the functional items that you normally tend to except you’re in this god-awful tight place sitting over a plastic bag in the cold and dark to do it. Once done though, all of the above items (1 thru 9) need to be accomplished in reverse order. It feels so good to be back in the seat and strapped in. That seat is the ONLY place in the tail where you are anything close to comfortable.

That’s what it’s like in the “tall-tail”.

EDIT: Oh, and I forget where it’s mentioned, the Quora or AF Magazine article, but because the gunner’s position is so far to the rear, it moves a LOT more comparatively than the cockpit. They bounce one foot, you bounce five. Hope you’re pooping in still air…

There was an episode of Dirty Jobs where Mike had to lubricate the rollers on an aerial cable car, and it was almost impossible for him to slither into position to get the grease gun on the lubrication nipple. I watched that and thought “did the people who designed this not know that some human would have to do this someday?”

The description of using the commode on the B-52 sounds even worse.

I was acquainted with a girl who walked into a job in aircraft maintenance. She walked in looking for work, and they looked at her and gave her a job. Working inside an aircraft wing. A job for which being ‘short’ and ‘thin’ and ‘small’ was an advantage.

Airframe Techs working inside the #3 cell of an F-18 need that job description as well…

I don’t think there were any mixed gender B-52 aircrews when the rear gun station was still in use but joining the mile high club back there seems impossible improbable.

This reminds me of Heywood Floyd in “2001: A Space Odyssey” reading the instructions for a zero-g toilet.

The B-52 seems worse.