Sunken B-29 "Open" To Public

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A B-29 that has kept its Cold War secrets 200 feet below the surface of the Overton arm of Nevada's Lake Mead for almost 60 years will soon be open to the public -- members of the public that are qualified to use rebreathing equipment for those depths. Although the wreck was found five years ago, the National Park Service, which "owns" the bomber, had declared it off limits to even those few visitors who might be able to venture near it. The ban is expected to be lifted soon. The B-29 was conducting "atmospheric tests" that required it to alternate between minimum altitude and 30,000 feet when, according to an Air Force accident report, a faulty altimeter may have contributed to the pilot's taking the minimum altitude a little too low. The plane was skimming the glassy surface of the lake at 230 mph when it touched the surface, ripping off three engines. The big bomber skipped back into the air about 200 feet and the two pilots were able to make a controlled, tail-down ditching. "According to the altimeter setting used by the pilot and the altimeter setting at the time of the crash at the nearest AF installation, the pilot should have had approximately 300 feet of altitude," the report says. The crew and a civilian scientist all got out and the plane floated for about 12 minutes. The accident report still has the location of the crash site censored and only partial last names of those on board are included.