In Search of a Legend
 

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Pete Merlin first became interested in the YB-49 in the late 1970s when he saw a book called Northrop Flying Wings of Northrop by Edward T. Maloney. One particular passage caught Pete's attention:

A decade later, Pete decided to try to find some of those pieces.

First he spoke to Dr. Richard P. Hallion, then chief historian at Edwards Air Force Base. Hallion knew the site well. He said it was located "about 10 miles west of the Edwards north gate and within 1,000 yards of the radio tower."

That sounded easy enough. On 6 January 1986 Pete embarked on a search for the YB-49 crash site with Eric LeVeque and Mark Miller. They drove west from Edwards on Highway 58 until they could see Mojave Airport. On the right was a hill with a radio antenna tower a few miles away, but there was a second tower just north of the highway.

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Pete parked his car near the closer of the two towers. This seemed to match Maloney's description best. Unfortunately it proved to be the wrong tower.

After four hours of searching, they found themselves at the base of the radio tower on the hilltop. From there, the crash site was clearly visible. As they approached the impact scar, Pete found a piece of the airplane. Closer to the site the ground was littered with debris.

The impact crater itself had patches of solidified molten aluminum, like a silvery gray lava. There were numerous unburned pieces of aircraft structure and external skin. Compressor blades from the engines were scattered in all directions. Some of the pieces had part numbers (later traced to the YB-49) and Northrop inspection stamps. There were also identifiable placards from the bomb bay and cockpit.

The young men stood in awe to be holding pieces of the legendary YB-49 flying wing.

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