Thursday, July 19, 2012

A Day With a B-29 (Fifi) at the Cedar Rapids Airport CID

Make no mistake, this was a rare day for aviation enthusiasts to see, hear and experience the rumblings of a Boeing B-29 Superfortress. "Fifi" entered service in May 1945 just a few months ahead of the end of World War II and now tours the country. Yesterday the massive four prop bomber arrived at the Eastern Iowa Airport (CID) in Cedar Rapids, Iowa for a couple of days of static display and to provide rides for those with cash. The plane will move on to Oshkosh, Wisconsin on Saturday for the annual EAA show.

The line to climb into the cockpit was long but a wind was blowing, the humidity was down and the shade from the right wing provided great relief from the summer sun. Standing in line you meet people and hear stories related to B-29s. The guy next to me just returned from Alaska via Seattle where he visited the Boeing plant there and toured the last manufactured B-17 bomber made.

While in line you can also chat with the flight crew. Here two Fifi mechanics unscrew the face plate of one of the massive engines to determine where oil was leaking. The obvious answer is that these engines constantly leak oil all over - perhaps by design. The boys made sure all the rivets were replaced.

And finally after 45 minutes you climb up a ladder in the forward bomb bay section to enter the pressurized flight deck. Here is where the majority of the crew is seated during missions. A tail gunner would crawl in a tube from this area rearward to the 50 caliber machine guns in the tail. Note how the glass nose looks very much like Star Wars' Millennium Falcon's front view area. Hans Solo and Chewbaca would fit right in. 

The tour continues with an exit down another ladder to the nose wheels. After emerging from the wheel door you are greeted by a view of the nose window.

Hours later the 67 year old B-29, which is the only remaining flying Superfortress, started its four engines and rolled down the taxi area in preparation for flight. Fifi provided two flights today and will do so tomorrow (Friday) before leaving on Saturday for the land of beer and cheese.

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