[General Cardenas recalled that he flipped over backwards in the YB-49] "That's bullshit. [Danny Forbes:] just saw the ground coming up, and he pulled the wings off. That's what happened.... The plane was completely controllable."
"We went at the thing in what we thought was a safe and sane manner. We didn't know what those [Air Force] guys were doing--there was no chase. They were very secretive about the whole thing from day one. And I had a suspicion--not just me alone--that Russ Schlee and Cardenas and that group from Wright Field were on some kind of a mission to downgrade the airplane, because they wanted the B-36.... They said it was almost unstable and hard to fly. That's baloney. It was solid as a rock. You had some lack of directional damping, not instability, and when we put Little Herbert [autopilot] on it, it was rock solid."
"[The company stall tests] were about a month after the accident. I came in on that program quite late. The two pilots that had flown originally, Fred Bretcher and Max Stanley, they didn't want any part of the stall tests. I said I'd do the stall tests on the airplane. We started out with a forward center of gravity, which is--when you've got a plane with no tail, it's all wing, the only way you could make it stable, at least in those days, is to fly with a pretty forward c.g. The forward c.g. means you have to have the elevons slightly up, or the trim flaps up, and that causes drag. And we started out with a pretty forward c.g., like about 22 percent. It flies just wonderful there. Anybody could fly it. The idea of the airplane being pretty near uncontrollable, I never heard such nonsense in my life. Anyway, we moved the c.g. back further and further, and we did that by shifting fuel, because it had about twelve fuel tanks. Now to do this, and to keep the weight of the plane sensible, we had to come back and land, you know, and put more fuel in, and go up and do it again. So on several days--I don't know, maybe 20, 25 flights there--finally we completed the whole thing. Cardenas suggested that I made only one flight and quit. That's not true either."
"The c.g. was moving back--22, 23, 24--the airplane would become more sensitive to pitch input. In other words, you pull back on the wheel and it was much easier to get the nose to go up. At extreme forward c.g., you could pull back on the stick as hard as you wanted, and the nose would come up 15, 20 degrees and that was as far as you could get it. Then the airplane would fall off on one wing. As you moved the c.g. back further and further, the nose would come higher and higher, and then--it would always fall off on the right wing, I don't know why. I did my damnedest to keep it from doing that, but but it just did; it was just the way the airplane was built, I guess. Always on the right side. Well, finally you get the c.g. back to 27, 28 percent, you pull back on the stick and you get it up to maybe a 30 degree pitch angle, you just let go and the thing would sit there. It didn't do anything; it would just stay there."
[Losing altitude?] "Oh, sure, you were going down like crazy."
"And finally we got the [c.g.] back to the point where I'd just start to move the nose up, and it would start up on its own accord, and I pushed the stick all the way forward and it was still going up. Now you're unstable, see."
[Did you think you were going over backwards?] "Well, who knows? The plane you see has a lot of inertia. It never gave you the idea it was going to do a back flip or anything like that. But the last stall we made--I think we were back to 32 percent--it was ungodly. I had the stick of course full forward, and it just--all I could see was blue sky. I had no idea what the pitch angle was, but it was very high. And it just fell off on the right wing like it did, and 'Hell, that's going to be okay.' I used an airspeed of 140, 150 when I would come out of my wingover, to make my recovery. On the last one--my fault--I always did it very easily, gently, pulling back on the thing--I did a snap. Two and a half turns. Kind of a snap roll. But it recovered quickly. I just gave it left rudder, forward stick, and it came right out. But fortunately I was high enough. Of course it picked up speed like crazy, and I made my recovery, no problem, and that was the end of the stall series."
[How fast?] "Oh, it must have been close to 300. I pulled two and a half [gs]. I was trying to hold it at two gs, because that's what the engineers told me. Anyhow, I did get to 2.5, and it kind of scared me a little bit. But as it turned out, nothing bent or stretched--it was just fine. And after the stall tests were over, I flew the airplane, oh gosh, 90, almost 100 hours, doing autopilot tests. And I enjoyed the hell out of it. I thought it was a wonderful airplane."
[second bomb tests.] "Good ole Russ Schlee! Who knows, maybe they turned the autopilot off when they were doing that. I had a suspicion that that's probably what they did, just to make it look bad. I thought the airplane was great. Now, don't ever get the idea that it was a jet-age airplane. It wasn't. They got this airplane with a 20 percent wing, a big thick wing, and it wasn't built for those high speeds.
[compared to N-9M] "It was such a big machine, it had so much inertia, that those little bobbles were damped right out.
[He lived in La Crescenta, near Glendale] "We'd commute [to Muroc]. We'd stay there maybe a week at a time. We had a barracks, you know, Northrop had a living quarters for the pilots and certain crew members. It was kind of like a beat-up BOQ. It was quite unlike any BOQ you ever saw. It was pretty run-down. Single story. That old base, you know, that was a wreck. We just kind of moved in, everybody, all the contractors just kind of moved in as best they could. "[The YB-49] had bugs. It needed a thinner wing, it needed sweepback, it needed artificial stability."