The "Kee Bird" a converted B-29 , from the 46th Reconnaissance Squadron in Ladd Field, Fairbanks, Alaska, was on a secret mission over the Polar Sea when it lost orientation due to the nearness of the Magnetic North pole and exposed to the action of Jet streams hitherto unknown by aircrews. It was a cloudy sky, even at 24.000 feet there was a layer of Cirrus that prevented the navigator to get a proper position fix. After some time, trying to establish their position, the crew tried to find a place to land without undue risk; they sighted a fairly plane area and set the plane down on an ice covered lake covered with low snow drifts. No one was hurt during the belly landing, but the exact position was unknown, Ladd Field sent out search planes, and radio contact was made, both with Ladd Field and Thule, with the latter at 04:00 Thule time on Febr. 23rd. The crew had been in the air for about 20 hours and had no sleep for a longer time.
Even with bent propellers and the landing gear damaged the plane was intact, and "looked as new" inside. So the crew could relax and wait for rescue. On the 24th of Feb. 1947 Lt. Bobbie Joe Cavnar landed beside the B-29 and picked the crew up. The whole operation took 20 minutes, the C-54 was airborne and on it's way to Thule where the cook Thomas Sheret had a warm Steak dinner ready.
After recovering from the cold stay in about -50 deg.F, cleaning up and having a good meal, the B-29 crew took off from Thule with destination Westover Field, Mass. and after a non-stop flight of 20 hours they were safely in the U.S.A. And the "Kee Bird" was left alone in the arctic nature, -- until an old flier saw a chance to bring her out.
In 1992 Darryl Greenamyer heard of the "Kee Bird" and got the idea to salvage the plane. After a brief expedition in 1993 he was persuaded it wasn't a crazy idea. Greenamyer saw that it would take plenty of work but was convinced that a team of six could get it done in several weeks, and he started to find the money needed. In the early spring of 1994 a group of men went to Thule, after Greenamyer had negotiated with the Danish Polar Center to get permission to take the plane out; they had to replace the motors and the propellers, find the tail rudder, crank the plane up and lower the landing gear; there was plenty to do before the group could get the plane fixed for take-off.
In 1995 Greenamyer and his group came back, sure they would succeed in flying "Kee Bird" home. Unfortunately while running the final tests of the motors, taxiing the plane on the frozen lake, a utility generator motor broke loose, a fuel line leaked and a spark ignited the fuel.
After many weeks of work and $ 500,000 poorer Greenamyer and the group could look at "Kee Bird" while it was burning to ashes, the proud bird will not raise again as the "Phoenix".