FIFI returns to the sky

The Commemorative Air Force’s (CAF) famous Boeing B-29 Superfortress bomber, FIFI — the only remaining flying example of the aircraft in the world — returned to the sky Saturday, Jan. 13, and flew to her home base in Addison, Texas.

The flight crew arrived in Midland, Texas, and conducted a successful maintenance flight followed by the one and a half hour trip, according to CAF officials, who note it was FIFI’s first flight since October 2012.

The B-29 experienced trouble with the number two engine and returned safely to the ground during a routine photo mission at the conclusion of AIRSHO. The B-29 is equipped with four radial engines, which are needed to power the massive aircraft. It was determined the nFIFIenginefundumber two engine would need major repairs and therefore the aircraft was grounded. For three months maintenance crews worked to repair the engine and get this historic aircraft flying again as quickly as possible.

“It’s all the difference in the world seeing it fly instead of in a museum,” said Preston McPhail, the 70-year-old son of a former B-29 mechanic. “You can smell the exhaust from the engines.”

And for today’s children, FIFI brings a history lesson to life.

“It’s hard not to cry, it’s real emotional. I’m happy these guys are keeping them flying,” said Melanie Skinner, who brought her 8-year-old niece to see the B-29 in Lexington, Ky. Skinner went on to say “My niece is a child of the millennium. (To her) World War II is ancient history. To be able to touch them, to feel them, to hear them, that’s what history is all about.”

A fundraising campaign was launched in November with a goal of raising $200,000 to repair the engine and purchase a replacement. Currently the campaign has raised just over $105,000 to get FIFI flying again, but is still short $95,000 to purchase a fifth engine, a spare, which will ensure continuous future operation and flight, CAF officials said.

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  1. Andy Spolski says

    During the Korean conflict. B-29 2281 “Fireball” had the center wing fuel tank transfer shot out. Two engines were shut down for lack of fuel. The remaining engines were set at reduced power to conserve fuel., and a descent towards home base was initiated. For the last 60 miles or so our altitude was so low, that ground effect figured in our maintaining flight. Soon after turning off the active, we ran out of fuel on the last two engines.
    We had an airplane with a super Aircraft Commander who knew the B-29.

  2. Andy Spolski says

    I cannot contribute with Credit card because the card information block does not appear.
    Will contribute by check.

    B-29, 2281, Fireball, brought us home on two engines, at reduced power to conserve fuel. We were so low in altitude that ground effect was the major lift. Can’t recall at which point of taxiing that we ran out of fuel. Fuel problem was the result of center wing tank transfer system shot out.

  3. Eddie Hunter says

    It seems I heard of B-17s coming home on way less than Four engines (not to mention a whole bunch of other parts). Could FIFI have made it home on three?

    • Steve Baker says

      Of course she could have, and she may have done that when the engine malfunctioned, but it would not have been safe to allow further flights without all engines functioning.

    • KENN PENMAN says

      Why take the chance with man and machine when you have a choice? At altitude over Germany, our flight crews didn’t have that luxury. Easy to speculate at sea level.

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