The world’s only flyable B-29 Superfortress “FIFI” will return to the skies Tuesday, June 29, at 8 a.m. for test flights, according to officials with the Commemorative Air Force.
The CAF Airpower Museum will open its doors at 7 a.m. on June 29 and June 30 for visitors who would like to get a front row seat for FIFI’s pre-flight preparations and first flights. Visitors to the museum will be ushered to the main hangar for an up-close view of the crew preparing this massive bomber for her first flight in four years. Once FIFI begins to head for the runways, visitors will be escorted to a prime viewing area, to witness the B-29s first taxi and takeoff. (Schedule subject to change without notice due to inclement weather or mechanical requirements.)
“The Midland/Odessa community has offered such great support for the B-29 during the last four years, we are excited to invite our neighbors out to see her first flight in four years,” said CAF President/CEO Steve Brown. “This has been an extensive project and the CAF is proud of the member-volunteers who worked tirelessly to get FIFI back in the air so quickly.”
The B-29 was originally fitted with the Wright R-3350-57AM engine, which had a less-than-desirable reputation since its inception. True to this reputation, FIFI has experienced numerous problems with her engines in the 30-plus years she has been flying with the CAF. Following the discovery of metal shavings in the engine oil, the B-29/B-24 Squadron held a lengthy series of meetings with CAF personnel and experts in the field of aircraft restoration and the decision was made to not fly the plane again until it could be fitted with engines that are a custom built combination of the R-3350-95W and R-3350-26WD engines. The refit required reworking the engine mounts and some of the engine cowling, making it a lengthy undertaking.
When the Commemorative Air Force (then Confederate Air Force) began searching for a B-29 for its collection of historical military aircraft, World War II had been over for 21 years. The Superfortresses that helped end it had long since yielded to new generations of jet-powered strategic bombers and vanished. According to the United States Air Force, no B-29s remained in inventory, even at storage or disposal depots. But the CAF colonels had faith and it paid off.
In 1971, a pilot reported sighting a number of what might have been B-29s in the California desert near China Lake. The CAF learned the aircraft were indeed Superfortresses that had been parked at a Navy weapons center for 17 years. They had been used for gunnery targets and abused by heat, sand and vandals. After much negotiation, paperwork and a painstaking process of elimination to find the best survivor, the CAF added B-29 SN44-62070 to its fleet. That was just the beginning of the task, according to CAF officials. The complete restoration to CAF standards of airworthiness was a long and expensive project involving more than three years of fund-raising and hard work. Late in 1974, the CAF’s B-29 was christened FIFI and joined the other World War II fighters and bombers to preserve the memories and teach lessons of mankind’s greatest war.
For more information: CommemorativeAirForce.org or 432-563-1000.