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Lifeboat from the Sky

An SB-29 drops a lifeboat. (U.S. Air Force photo)

An SB-29 drops a lifeboat. (U.S. Air Force photo)

A-3 lifeboat. (U.S. Air Force photo)

A-3 lifeboat. (U.S. Air Force photo)

An Air Rescue Service SB-29 of the 5th Rescue Squadron with an Edo A-3 lifeboat attached. (U.S. Air Force)

An Air Rescue Service SB-29 of the 5th Rescue Squadron with an Edo A-3 lifeboat attached. (U.S. Air Force)

An SB-29 preparing for a lifeboat test drop in 1952. (U.S. Air Force)

An SB-29 preparing for a lifeboat test drop in 1952. (U.S. Air Force)

DAYTON, Ohio - A-3 lifeboat on display in the Korean War Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

DAYTON, Ohio - A-3 lifeboat on display in the Korean War Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

As the lifeboat falls away, a small drogue parachute opens the main parachute. (U.S. Air Force)

As the lifeboat falls away, a small drogue parachute opens the main parachute. (U.S. Air Force)

The 100-foot main parachute slows the 1.5-ton boat’s descent. (U.S. Air Force)

The 100-foot main parachute slows the 1.5-ton boat’s descent. (U.S. Air Force)

The boat hits the water and rights itself, ready for boarding. (U.S. Air Force)

The boat hits the water and rights itself, ready for boarding. (U.S. Air Force)

The lifeboat featured covers to protect Airmen from rain, wind and sun. (U.S. Air Force)

The lifeboat featured covers to protect Airmen from rain, wind and sun. (U.S. Air Force)

The Edo company developed this model A-3 lifeboat in 1947. Modified B-29 bombers, known as SB-29s, carried these boats. SB-29s accompanied bomber formations to the coast of North Korea and circled there while the bombers hit targets inland. If a returning bomber had to ditch in the ocean, a lifeboat could be dropped to save the crew.

The boat could carry 15 people. It was equipped with food and water for several days, and also had a small engine. The boat was self-righting, featured covers to keep out sun, wind and rain, and had a ladder for boarding. About 100 of these boats were made.

TECHNICAL NOTES:
Length:
30 ft.
Weight: 2,736 lbs. fully equipped
Speed: 8 knots on calm water
Engine: Gas, 4-cylinder Red Wing Meteor 20

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