Over the June 19-22 weekend, I traveled to Paine Field for a few days of Plane Spotting as well as to add to the frequent flyer account balance. Over the course of my 3 days I was pleasantly surprised as to how busy the airport was with air traffic. Over the next few days I’ll publish additional stories covering my visit which included some fantastic viewing, including Lufthansa’s newest and Boeing’s 1500th 747 enjoying a customer flight on a perfect day.
For now, I want to share something special as far as rare and important aircraft are concerned.
On Saturday and Sunday (June 21-22) The Historic Flight Foundation hosted a Flying Weekend that showcased their collection of vintage commercial and military aircraft (more on them in a future post). As part of this event, they invited the Commemorative Air Force (CAF) to bring in their B29 Superfortress, affectionately known as ‘Fifi’. What makes Fifi special is that it is the LAST B29 that is still flight worthy. In fact, Fifi tours the country during the summer visiting a variety of airports. She normally is the ‘Guest of Honor’ at these events and draws large crowds where ever she lands.
As I mentioned, Fifi is maintained and operated by the CAF and is based at Addison Airport in Addison, Texas. The CAF is a non-profit organization that for the last 50 years has operated as a “Flying Musuem”, taking their collection of vintage military aircraft to events around the country. The CAF is driven by dedicated volunteers who fly, maintain and otherwise tend to the needs of the fleet. To learn more about this impressive organization, please visit their website at www.airpowersquadron.org.
On their site, you’ll find a complete calendar of events for 2014 that will feature their fleet. The absolutely great thing about these aircraft is the fact that you can buy a ticket and go for a ride. You can sit in the Bombardier’s seat of the B29, or you can go for a high speed run in a P51 Mustang or pick a ride on their other birds.
Regarding ‘Fifi’, I’ll share with you an excerpt from the CAF website that tells the story:
The Boeing B-29 Superfortress, first flown in 1942, began active service in 1944. It was designed as a replacement for the older B-17s and B-24s, having the longer range and greater bomb loads necessary for operations in the World War II Pacific theater. The B-29 was also used in the Korean War in the early 1950s and was a staple of the U.S. Air Force until the late 1950s.
FIFI was acquired by the CAF in the early 1970s when a group of CAF members found her at the U.S. Navy Proving Ground at China Lake, California where she was being used as a missile target. The airplane was rescued and restored and flew for over thirty years until 2006 when the chief pilot made the decision to ground her pending a complete power plant re-fit. What followed was an extensive four year restoration that included replacing all four engines with new custom built hybrid engines.FIFI returned to the sky in 2010 and since that time has traveled coast to coast attracting large crowds at every tour stop. Learn more about FIFI at www.cafB29B24.org.
Fifi is currently staying at the Historic Flight Foundation for the next 2 weeks as she undergoes routine maintenance. She will be taking passengers back to the skies at Paine Field on July 5 and 6.
Here are several photos from a walk around as Fifi sat on the ramp at the Historic Flight Foundation. I took a bit of artistic license and attempted to capture the images in a way that would be ‘period correct’ for Fifi in the prime of her life in the 1940s and 50s.