The Commemorative Air Force’s B-29 “Fifi” – the world’s only flyable B-29 – has been temporarily grounded by engine problems.
To return the rare airplane to flight, the B-29/B-24 Squadron (the group within the CAF tasked with the responsibility for maintaining and flying the plane) needs to raise at least $3 million to custom fit the plane with new engines that are a more reliable variant of those currently on the plane. The process will be expensive and take at least two years, but without it the aircraft will continue to experience the same type of repeated engine problems that have plagued it in the past, according to officials at CAF’s Midland, Texas, headquarters.
Originally fitted with Wright R-3350-57AM engines, “Fifi” has experienced numerous problems with them in the 30-plus years she has been flying with the CAF. The most recent problems surfaced in June after several days of crew training flights. After the flights, a check of the engine oil revealed metal particles – a sign of damage.
Following this discovery, the decision was made to not fly the plane again until she could be refitted with new engines. The plan is to combine R-3350-95W and R-3350-26WD engines to custom build engines for the B-29.
“There is no better way to pay tribute to all the men and women of World War II than to keep the last example of the most advanced and significant aircraft of their time flying,” said Charlie Tilghman, B-29/B-24 Squadron leader. “The problems keeping ‘Fifi’ grounded at the present time are actually quite simple mechanical obstacles that we have the capability of overcoming. If we can raise the funds, she will fly again.”
“Fifi” joined the CAF fleet in 1971, after she was rescued from the desert at China Lake, Calif. The B-29 first started touring in 1976 – six years following her recovery from China Lake.
For more information: 432-563-1000, ext. 0 CommemorativeAirForce.org and click on the “Save Fifi” link.