The B-26 Was a Pi­lot Killer

Flight Journal - - 10 AVIATION MYTHS OF WORLD WAR II -

"One a day in Tampa Bay” was the catch­phrase at­tend­ing Martin’s

B-26 Ma­rauder at MacDill Field in 1942–43. But al­though the sleek, fast twin-en­gine bomber es­tab­lished a ster­ling record against all three ma­jor Axis pow­ers, it never fully shook off its early man-killer rep­u­ta­tion.

In fact, the B-26 air­frame was not al­ways to blame for its widow-maker no­to­ri­ety. The span was ex­tended af­ter the early B mod­els to re­duce wing load­ing and land­ing speed, with ben­e­fi­cial re­sults. The Ma­rauder used two Pratt & Whit­ney R2800s, ar­guably the finest ra­dial en­gines ever made, but the main prob­lem was the Cur­tis­sElec­tric pro­pel­lers. Their pitch con­trol could fail at the worst pos­si­ble mo­ment—es­pe­cially on take­off—with of­ten dis­as­trous re­sults. Ad­di­tional care in main­te­nance was nec­es­sary to avoid the prob­lem.

The Ma­rauder es­tab­lished an over­all su­perb safety record, far ahead of all AAF sin­gle-en­gine fighters and nearly even with the Dou­glas A-26 In­vader (57 ac­ci­dents per 100,000 hours ver­sus 55, re­spec­tively). In Europe, the Martin’s com­bat loss rate was less than half of that of the B-17 and B-24, and nearly iden­ti­cal to that of the Dou­glas A-20.

None­the­less, like the much-ma­ligned Brew­ster Buf­falo, the Martin Ma­rauder has never quite shed its un­de­served en­mity.

The CAF Martin B-26 fly­ing over South Texas in 1994. This type had an ex­cep­tional com­bat loss record. (Photo by Bill Crump)

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