The National Park Service has awarded two companies limited Commercial Use Authorizations for guided technical scuba diving on a Cold War-era B-29 that rests at the bottom of Lake Mead in Nevada.
The two companies are Sin City Scuba, based in Las Vegas, and Scuba Training and Technology Inc., based in Lake Havasu City, Ariz. Working with one of these companies on an escorted dive is the only way qualified technical divers can dive the B-29 site. The bomber is too deep to be reached by recreational divers, according to NPS officials.
During a six-month trial period that began July 15, dives will be limited to one dive guide for every two clients on a dive team, with up to 12 divers total per week. During the trial, the NPS may make adjustments to the guided dive service, including the right to halt, temporarily suspend, and increase or decrease the carrying capacity to address any impacts to the site. Safety and emergency plans are required for each dive.
“The NPS has reached out to members of the local, regional and national dive community to work collaboratively on a management plan that will allow the public to experience the amazing history of this site while protecting it for future generations as part of a comprehensive site stewardship plan,” said Superintendent William K. Dickinson. “The site has been determined eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. We want qualified divers to be able to explore the site, but they must do it responsibly.”
The aircraft, which was modified for atmospheric research, crashed in the Overton Arm area of the lake in 1948 when 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.
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