Congressman Michael Turner, an Ohio representative, is gunning to ground the only flyable Boeing B-29 Superfortress in the world, “FIFI.”
The Commemorative Air Force (CAF) and other leading organizations in the Warbird and general aviation communities are joining voices to oppose an amendment proposed by Turner to the House National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 4310) that, if allowed to pass, would have a devastating effect on civilian operated historic military aircraft, CAF officials said.
The amendment, “Title 10,” would bar the Department of Defense (DoD) from loaning or gifting any United States military aircraft or aircraft parts to any entity except those that would put the aircraft on static display, such as in a museum. Organizations like the CAF would no longer be allowed to conduct flight operations in these DoD “loaned” vintage aircraft.
Turner is a former mayor of Dayton, Ohio, home to the National Museum of the United States Air Force (NMUSAF). The CAF was involved in a lawsuit with the U.S. Air Force two years ago, which was spearheaded by the NMUSAF, regarding ownership of the F-82 Twin Mustang. Though the aircraft was donated to the CAF in the early 1970s, the lawsuit and subsequent appeal resulted in the rare aircraft being dismantled and shipped to the NMUSAF in 2009, where it sits permanently grounded. The donation and operation agreement for the F-82 was very similar to another CAF Warbird, the Boeing B-29 Superfortress FIFI.
“Apparently, Representative Turner doesn’t want children given the opportunity to be inspired by the only flying example of the aircraft that ended World War II,” said CAF President/CEO Stephan Brown. “The Queen of the CAF Fleet and the world’s only flying B-29, FIFI is possessed by the CAF as a ‘Conditional Donation’ from the NMUSAF. This means that the airplane is permanently ours as long as we meet certain conditions of care for the airplane. We also have a subsequent agreement to allow the CAF to conduct flight operations with FIFI – and so we have for nearly 40 years. The only way the NMUSAF could ground FIFI is if the law were changed such that it make it illegal to fly her and Representative Turner hopes to change the law to do just that.”
The CAF has strictly adhered to the requirements of the “Conditional Donation” since its original execution in 1971 and amendment to include flight operations in 1974, Brown said, adding that the only legal method to require cessation of flight operations of the B-29 and other DoD donated Warbirds operated by organizations like the CAF is to implement laws like the proposed amendment.
“While the NMUSAF leadership has historically opposed Warbird operations, the U.S. Air Force has been among the Warbird community’s most avid supporters,” said Brown. “For years, FIFI and other aircraft of the CAF Fleet have been the stars of Air Force Open Houses and Air Shows at bases across the country. The CAF and other Warbird organizations perform on behalf of the USAF to boost their recruiting efforts and continue sharing the history of American Military Aviation. It appears that the USAF and its national museum send conflicting messages regarding their view of the future of Warbird operations.”
Since her return to flight in the fall of 2010 following an extensive re-engining project, FIFI has been featured in publications like Warbird Digest and the Wall Street Journal. Through these publications and her appearances at airshows and aviation events across the country, FIFI has touched the lives of tens of thousands of Americans and shared the story of the Greatest Generation. Should the proposed amendment be allowed to pass, FIFI would be relegated to a static display in a museum where her reach would be limited to only those who were able and interested in traveling to her.
The Warbird community is made up of nearly 1,000 aircraft, including those used in World War I, World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. The operation of these aircraft provides access to millions of people who would not otherwise be able to learn about the history of American Military Aviation and the men and women who built, serviced and flew these important airplanes. They are a major attraction at hundreds of civilian and military air shows around the world and educate people about the role they played in securing the freedoms we enjoy today.
For more information: CommemorativeAirForce.org or 432-563-1000.
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