Why the pilot of the Enola Gay needed a tire gauge and a tape measure to keep his plane in the air

The B-29 Superfortress was arguably the most advanced bomber to fly in World War II. While two of them, the Enola Gay and Bock’s Car, are the only planes to ever use an atomic bomb in anger, much of a B-29 pilot’s work was not glamorous at all.

It was downright tedious in some ways. So tedious in fact, the pilot had a tape measure and a tire-pressure gauge to check the spacing on various components and to make sure the plane’s tires were pumped up.

Yeah, the aircraft commander had to do that grunt work!


Photo by US Army Air Forces Birdsall, Stephen via Wikimedia Commons

The B-29 was a complex aircraft — an inevitable consequence of its advanced technology. In fact, a training film for B-29 pilots focuses less on the airborne part of the flying and more on the ground checks needed and the pre-flight checklist.

Aviation historian Joe Baugher noted that the B-29A that was the mainstay of the World War II bombing campaign against Japan featured four remote-controlled turrets, each with two .50-caliber machine guns. The tail turret had the two .50-caliber machine guns, but also a 20mm cannon.

As raunchy comic Andrew Dice Clay would put it, “There’s a Sunday surprise!”


Fifi, one of only two flying Boeing B-29 Superfortresses. (Photo by Ilikerio via Wikimedia Commons)

The B-29 could also carry up to 20,000 pounds of bombs, and it had a top speed of 357 miles per hour. The famed Mitsubishi A6M Zero, by comparison, had a top speed of 322 miles per hour. A total of 3,970 B-29s were produced, and each had an 11-man crew.

The training film below about flying the B-29 shows all the work that went into preparing to take off.