Nose in the Air

By John Payne

November 2016

My father, Jack Payne, was a P-47 pilot in the Pacific in World War II. Post-war, while still on Okinawa, he transitioned to Boeing B-29s to get multi-engine time and in fact became an instructor. He'd happened to work at Wright Aeronautical Corp. before he enlisted and was amused one day to find his own inspection stamp on one of the engines of the plane he was about to fly!

But his big B-29 story was the time his aircraft's nose wheel failed to lower before landing. His solution was to have the rest of the crew scramble back into the tail section the instant the main wheels touched the runway. With the plane now tail-heavy, he was able to nurse it along the runway and keep the nose up until the speed had reduced to a point where he could let the nose down without too much damage.

Twenty-five years later, we visited the Air Force museum in Ohio. I was about 12. The museum had a B-29 fuselage on display, with a tour guide to walk you through it. Dad just started pointing things out and telling stories. The tour guide smiled and just let Dad take over. I'll never forget when we got aft and he saw the motor that ran the hydraulics and said, "And there's the 'putt-putt!'"