FORT WORTH -- "Lucky Lady II," a United States Air Force B50 bomber, Wednesday completed the first non-stop around-the-world flight in history.
Ninety-four hours and one minute after she took off from Carswell Air Force Base here last Saturday, the great, four-engine bomber came home again out of a haze hanging in the west.
It was estimated that she had flown 23,452 miles, almost the distance of the earth's circumference at the equator, without any major difficulty aloft and with the benefit of four refuelings in flight.
Her 14 crewmen scrambled out, proclaiming their willingness to do it all over again after a little rest, and received a royal welcome from top Air Force officers and Air Secretary W. Stuart Symington.
Captain James Gallagher of Melrose, Minn., the smiling crew commander, said "We were on instruments only four hours; the weather was excellent."
The last leg -- the homeward dash from Hawaii, where Lucky Lady II took on fuel from a B29 tanker Tuesday night -- "seemed the longest," Gallagher said.
"I don't think any, of us is real tired, and I wouldn't mind 'doing it again -- after a little rest," he said.
Lucky Lady II took off from Carswell at 11:21 a. m. last Saturday, Feb. 26. She flashed past the Carswell tower, at the end of her epochal flight, at 9:22 a. m. Wednesday, made two great circles about the, field at altitude of 3,000 feet and then came down, over Lake Worth at the west end of the runway, for a perfect landing.
Some 400 to 500 persons, most of them Air Force personnel, were on the ramp to wave their greetings to the crew, which had their faces pushed against the windows.
Two B36 tanker planes were with Lucky Lady II as she broke through the haze. They had "picked her" up and flown escort on the run in from Tucson, Ariz., Wednesday morning.
Symington and the top military men -- General Hoyt Vandenberg, air chief of staff; General Curtis E. Lemay, strategic air commander, and Major General Roger A. Ramey, Eighth Air Force commander -- pushed forward and encircled the crew as they climbed down.
The Air Force billed this as a "training mission," but its obvious pride in the flight was reflected by the presence of all the "top brass."
Air Force B29 tankers went up over the Azores, Dhahran in Saudi Arabia, the Philippines and Hawaii to deliver fuel to the glory-bound bomber, which circled the globe at an average speed figured unofficially at 239 miles per hour.
Vandenberg said the night was additional evidence that "we have an intercontinental Air Force." It was a demonstration to the world that no enemy objective is outside the range of United States bombers.
It was, said the Air Force, "part of a continuing program of inflight refueling training flights which will be flown to all parts or the world."
Lucky Lady II refueled over the Azores 15 hours and 34 minutes after her takeoff; over Dhahran some 35 hours and 9 minutes out of Fort Worth; above the Philippines at the 55 hour and 39 minute mark, and over Hawaii, before turning homeward on the last lap, 78 hours and 54 minutes after the flight began.
Lucky Lady II, drawn from the Eighth Air Force's 43rd Bomb Group, is a regular combat plane. She carried 12 50-caliber guns but no ammunition or bombs. For additional safety margin, bomb bay fuel tanks were installed.
The historic flight was performed on a schedule of masterful precision and precaution.
Ramey and his associates said the flight was ordered on Feb. 18. Three days later, on Feb. 21, the B29 tanker planes were in place at the refueling points.
Air-sea rescue units were put on alert and 100 to 125 auxiliary landing fields were designated for emergency use.
Hourly reports came back from Lucky Lady II to the Strategic Air Command at Omaha and Eighth Air Force headquarters here. So well devised were the channels of communication that reports from the plane reached headquarters in an average time of 30 minutes to an hour.
The 14-member crew was given a physical examination just before the takeoff. After a brief press con ference, the crewmen were hurried away to flight physicians again Wednesday morning for more examinations, to study the effect of their long grind.
The B50, manufactured by Boe ing Airplane Company of .Seattle, Wash., is a vastly-improved post war version of the B29 Superf or tress. It has a combat radius of more than 2,300 miles, but on a straight-line shuttle bombing mis sion can carry five tons of bombs 6,000 miles.
Its operational ceiling is "above 30,000 feet" and its load capacity is 10 tons.
The Air Force has ordered 390 of the B50's, but it has not revealed the number thus far delivered.
Lucky Lady II took its name from the B29 "Lucky Lady," one of three Superforts which began a round-the-world flight last july. Two of the planes finished the flight and the third crashed in Arabia.
While hundreds of persons apparently were in on the secret of the Lucky Lady II flight, no word of it leaked out to the public. Tuesday night in Washington, 54 newspaper, radio and newsreel correspondents were loaded aboard two B17 Flying Fortresses and a Constellation transport and hustled to Fort Worth to cover the B50's arrival.
They were not told of their destination until they were in the air, en route.