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Jimmy Stewart Joined the Mach 2 Club in a B-58 Hustler

General Stewart Sure Did Love Him Some Of Convair’s Delta Winged Bomber

Official United States Air Force Photograph

When the General Dynamics / Air Force film “Champion of Champions” was produced in the early 1960s the United States Air Force (USAF) was flying several manned bomber types. Brigadier General James M Stewart, USAF (ret) did the narration and makes several appearances in the film. In fact, he climbs out of the pilot’s seat of a Convair B-58 Hustler appearing in the film’s opening scene. We’re told that Stewart joined the Mach 2 club when he flew a Hustler. Of course Stewart was still in The Air Force Reserve when the film was made and there is plenty of documentation of his flights aboard Convair B-36 Peacemakers, Boeing B-47 Stratojets, and Boeing B-52 Stratofortress bombers. He may actually have flown the B-58 before he retired from the Air Force in 1968. Either way the film is entertaining in a what-if sort of way.

B-58s entered service in 1960 and served for a tumultuous ten years before they were retired. The film makes mention of the B-58’s low-level flight performance, which is ironic because the B-58 was originally designed for high altitude penetration missions.

Of course when in 1960 the capabilities of Soviet surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) became apparent, Strategic Air Command (SAC) was forced to change their mission parameters to low-level penetration sorties. The B-58 could not use its greatest asset (its speed) as effectively at low altitude. The change to low-level work spelled the end of the B-58 in SAC front-line service.

Official United States Air Force Photograph

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Written by Bill Walton

Bill Walton

Bill Walton is a life-long aviation enthusiast and expert in aircraft recognition. As a teenager Bill helped his engineer father build an award-winning T-18 homebuilt airplane in their Wisconsin basement. Bill is a freelance writer, an avid sailor, engineer, announcer, husband, father, uncle, mentor, coach, and Navy veteran. Bill lives north of Houston TX with his wife and son under the approach path to KDWH runway 17R, which means they get to look up at a lot of airplanes. A very good thing.