A B-29 that crashed into Lake Mead in July 1948 was not found until 2002. Now, not a week goes by that officials at the National Resource Area of Lake Mead in Boulder City, Nev., do not get an inquiry from someone who wants to dive on the bomber.
“I get at least two or three calls a week about it. Divers from all over the world want to see it,” said Roxanne Dey, public affairs officer for the Lake Mead National Recreation Area.
The Super Fortress, which had been modified for a solar radiation study, was supposed to fly as low as possible over the surface of the lake. A combination of sun glare off the water, a smooth surface and an incorrect altimeter setting resulted in the bomber striking the surface. The impact tore off three of the four engines and bounced the airplane like a stone being skipped on the surface of a pond. The B-29 traveled a few hundred feet, then came to rest on the water. The crew survived, but the bomber sank within minutes and was not seen again until In Depth Consulting, a professional diving company, located it in August 2002.
The bomber is too deep to be reached by recreational divers. A diving restriction also has been put in place, according to Dey, because the issue of who owns the bomber is being decided in court.
The National Park Service claims the bomber is part of the park and should be managed under the National Historic Preservation Act.
“Once the litigation is settled, we will have the local dive community help us develop a plan for stewardship of the site,” she said.
Although the B-29 is unique, it is not the only aircraft wreck visited by divers. “We have lots of small airplane wrecks in the park,” Dey says. “Before the Hoover Dam was built in 1935, there were crashes and people dive on those.”