MIDLAND, TEXAS (Sept. 25, 2010) – The Commemorative Air Force (CAF) is proud to announce the world’s only flyable Boeing B-29 Superfortress has returned to the skies just in time for the 2010 CAF AIRSHO presented by Western National Bank, Oct. 9-10 at Midland International Airport.
Following an extensive re-engine project, FIFI took her first flight on Aug. 6, 2010, when she experienced a distributor malfunction in engine number two that resulted in pre-ignition, damaging some of the cylinders. The engine was removed and shipped to Anderson Aeromotive for repairs. The engine was returned to the CAF and tested before the aircraft returned to flight during the early afternoon of Fri., Sept. 24, 2010.
“This is a great day for the Commemorative Air Force,” said CAF President Stephan Brown. “With the successful completion of the flight testing, we look forward to the long future with these reliable new engines. The work of the CAF volunteer members and support of Jim Cavanaugh, has given FIFI a new lease on life. There are many years ahead of FIFI for touring the country and telling the stories of the men and women who sacrificed their lives for our freedom.”
Following more than four years of work, FIFI returned to the skies just after 1 p.m. on Friday afternoon for a flight of almost two hours. Back on the ground, the crew immediately began inspecting every inch of the airplane before returning to the air for a second flight of just over an hour Friday evening.
Saturday morning just after 10 a.m., the B-29 crew, lead by CAF pilot Charles Tilghman, took to the skies for its third and final test flight required for the FAA.
“We are excited to know that FIFI is ready for the CAF AIRSHO,” said CAF AIRSHO Volunteer Chairperson, Gena Linebarger. “Having the ‘Queen of our Fleet’ back in the air at for the AIRSHO Oct. 9-10 will show we really are ‘The Best Warbird Show in America!’”
AIRSHO will be the first opportunity for the public to purchase rides in the world’s only flyable B-29! Rides will be available beginning Thurs., Oct. 8 through Sun., Oct. 10. For more information and to purchase a once-in-a-lifetime ride visit www.cafb29b24.org.
On Saturday and Sunday Oct. 9th and 10th, the CAF AIRSHO gates will open to the public at 7:30 a.m. to give attendees plenty of time to view the static aircraft before the flying begins. AIRSHO features over 100 aircraft on display and in the air, ranging from early vintage aircraft to the thundering sounds of today's American military. CAF AIRSHO takes great pride in bringing modern military to the public along with the historic aircraft of the CAF fleet. Tickets are available at area Western National Bank, Domino’s Pizza and FINA 7-Eleven locations, online at www.AIRSHO.org and at the Commemorative Air Force Headquarters at Midland International Airport.
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 U. S. 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. 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.
Collecting, restoring and flying vintage historical aircraft for more than half a century, the CAF ranks as one of the largest private air forces in the world. The CAF is dedicated to Honoring American Military Aviation through flight, exhibition and remembrance. A non-profit educational association, the CAF has approximately 9,000 members and a fleet of 156 airplanes distributed throughout the country to 74 units located in 27 states for care and operation. For more information, visit www.commemorativeairforce.org, www.airsho.org, or call (432) 563-1000.