Review: Boeing’s B-47 STRATOJET

Reviews demand disclosure nowadays, and so the lead paragraph on this fantastically good book has to reveal (a) that Al Lloyd is a friend and (b) I am a nut about the B-47.

The only important words in the first paragraph are “this fantastically good book”, for that is exactly true about Al Lloyd’s latest work.  If you have any interest whatsoever in the magnificent swept wing B-47 bomber, this book is a must. If you do not have any interest in the B-47, just thumb through a few of Al’s pages and you will.

The author had many advantages in writing the book. As a veteran engineer, he could communicate with the principals who created the B-47, the pilots who flew them and the men who serviced them on a one to one basis. He also had the advantage of a vast network of sources, cultivated over the years in his other work, and all eager to help him in what they knew would become the definitive book on the Stratojet.

He used these advantages and more to turn out a superb work, exhaustively researched, couched in his own pervasive knowledge of aviation, and studded with magnificent pictures. The design, the paper, the reproduction qualities are all first rate, making this book a tremendous bargain.

And best of all there is the comprehensive content. Loyd covers everything from the progenitors of the aircraft, through its long and arduous development and testing through its introduction into operations. He goes on from there to cover each aspect of its use in the Strategic Air Command (as a bomber and a reconnaissance stalwart) through all the many variants, including some of the wild experimental types, and carefully registers the tremendous impact the airplane had on the future. It is in his estimation (and in mine!) the most important multi-jet aircraft in history, in the influence it exerted on both military and civil jet design.

He caps a masterful narrative, filled with individual personal accounts of triumph and tragedy in the B-47, with six indispensable Appendices that cover every thing from colors and basings through unit use. Appendix E is pretty sobering to an old B-47 pilot, because it reveals the accident rate. Technological advances sometimes exact a high toll.

There is no question that Lloyd’s personal relationship with such B-47 stars as Bob Robbins, Guy Townsend, George Schairer, and many others lend a degree of personal authenticity that no other author could achieve. His massive research, extending over the years, availed him not only of facts, but of vital photos that would otherwise have long been lost to history.

And he has to be saluted for recognizing that while a B-47 bomber had only a three man crew, with the copilot doubling as tail gunner, he gives full credit to the radar observer/navigator/bombardier, who did all the rest. He also credits the weapon system officers who, crowded into claustrophobic capsules, leveraged the utility of the aircraft to a whole new level of reconnaissance. He does the same thing with the maintenance personnel who kept the demanding B-47 flying no matter what the problem or the weather. These vital members of the B-47 team rarely get the informed approval that Lloyd provides, and it is long overdue.

Al Lloyd’s Boeing B-47 STRATOJET is a tribute to Boeing, to the Strategic Air Command, and to the thousands of men and women who labored so long and hard in making it the most important weapon system of its time.  No aviation library is complete without a copy, and every fan of the B-47 should have another copy by the bedside!

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