COnVAIR B-58 HUSTLER
Located in the parking lot of the Paul Roberson Building (3133 General Hudnell Dr.)
Excerpt from the Commemorative Plaques:
In gratitude for the countless hours spent turning a B-58 shell into the gallant bomber displayed here, the Kelly Field Heritage Foundation salutes the men and women of the 2954th Combat Logistics Support Squadron for their skill, dedication and hard work.
The Convair B-58A-10-CF Hustler/59-2437, which was the 40th Hustler constructed during the early 1960s. First assigned to the 43rd Bombardment Wing at Carswell AFB, this jet was later transferred to Little Rock AFB in Arkansas. Nicknamed Firefly II and Rigley's Baby, it was permanently grounded in 1968 due to damage sustained to its main gear strut during landing and eventually put on display at Kelly AFB in 1991.
Developed in the late 1950s and serviced by Kelly AFB workers in the 1960s, the Convair B-58 Hustler was developed for the United States for service in the Strategic Air Command and designed to satisfy the Air Force requirement for a heavy bomber with a combat radius of 2,500 miles.
San Antonio's involvement with the B-58 officially began in March 1955, when the San Antonio Air Materiel Area (SAAMA) was designated the lead air materiel area for the new plane by acquiring both prime and specialized repair responsibility. By early 1956, a B-58 Control Group was established at Kelly AFB to coordinate supply, procurement and maintenance activities. Much of Kelly's effort in the early phases revolved around developing estimates of the quantities of material required through negotiations with Convair, who ultimately decided to conduct testing for the aircraft at its Fort Worth, TX facility.
Source: Wikimedia Commons
First delivered to Kelly AFB in March 1960, the B-58 Hustler was initially used as a ground maintenance trainer. Just under ninety-seven feet long with a wingspan of almost fifty-seven feet, it required a three-man crew for flight and was known for its sonic boom, which could be heard by bystanders on the ground as it engaged in supersonic flight.
The B-58 did not enter maintenance shops at Kelly until late 1962, when SAAMA teamed with Convair to begin a modification program dubbed Hustle-Up. The fleet required near-constant management and weapons support through engineers, commanders and other personnel at Kelly Field. Modification of the test fleet of aircraft to tactical configuration through the installation of multi-weapon carrying capacity and an improved ejection system, as well as logistics support, were regular functions performed by Kelly workers. One of these personnel, Major General Lew Curtis, eventually became the commander of the San Antonio Air Logistics Center at Kelly AFB.
By the end of the program in 1964, 64 aircraft had passed through maintenance for modification.
Intended for high-altitude flights at supersonic speeds to evade Soviet interceptors, the B-58 Hustler became the first operational bomber capable of mach 2 flight by breaking a closed-course speed record on January 14, 1961 On that date, Lt. Col. Harold E. Confer, LT. Col. Richard Weir and Maj. Howard Bialas flew Convair B-58A-10-CF Hustler 59-2441 at an average of 2,067.58 kilometers per hour (1,284.73 miles per hour) over a 1,000 kilometer closed circuit - more than 200 miles per hour over the previous record.
As the 1960s progressed, fewer B-58s entered maintenance facilities at Kelly, as routine inspections uncovered a number of problems, such as faulty plumbing and wiring and metal fatigue.
The B-58 Hustler was ultimately phased out after ten years due to the aforementioned problems, as well as limited range, inability to deliver conventional bombs, high operating expense, need for frequent aerial refueling and high rate of accidental losses.
DEDICATED TO BRIGADIER GENERAL HAROLD E. (HAL) CONFER, Lieutenant colonel Richard WEir and Major HOward Bialas
On April 25, 2014, Port San Antonio honored Brigadier General Hal Confer by permanently adding his name to the onsite B-58 display aircraft.
While serving in the Strategic Air Command as a B-52 aircraft commander, Major Confer was selected to be in the initial cadre that launched the first operational B-58 flying program. He was subsequently selected to be the commander of the 63rd Bombardment Squadron- the first Supersonic Bombardment Squadron in the U.S. Air Force.
Brigadier General Hal Confer, April 25, 2014.
In 1960, when the B-58 was entered into the Strategic Air Command's Bombing Competition for the first time, Major Confer piloted the bomber to victory against the B-47 and B-52 aircraft. Major Confer's crew included Captain Richard H. Weir (Navigator-Bombardier) and Captain Howard S. Bialas (Defense Systems Operator).
On January 14 1961, Major Confer and his crew, Flying the B-58 Hustler, established three world records for the 1,000 kilometer closed course at Edwards Air Force Base. For this achievement, he and his crew received the Thompson Trophy — a first for a bomber crew.
Prior to retirement, Major Confer was promoted to Brigadier General and commanded the Strategic Air Command's 45th Air Division. General Confer retired in 1978 with numerous decorations, which include the Distinguished Service Medal, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Presidential Unit Award and the Air Force Outstanding Unit Citation.
On Jun 7, 2017, Captains Weir and Bialas were subsequently honored by having their names permanently added to the B-58 aircraft that sits on display at the Port.
ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 154901: https://aviation-safety.net/wikibase/154901
The B-58 Hustler Association: www.b58hustlerassn.net/disposition
Convair B-58 Hustler: www.forgottenjets.warbirdsresourcegroup.org/convair_b-58_hustler.html
Hussey, Ann K. et. al. Kelly Air Force Base: Eighty-Five Years of Service: 2001.
Kelly Field: Key in Cold War Speed Race: www.jbsa.mil/News/News/Article/1250946/kelly-field-key-in-cold-war-speed-race/
This Day in Aviation: www.thisdayinaviation.com
Banner image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons