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Rare World War II Bombers Soaring into Hondo

The world’s only remaining flyable Boeing B-29 Super-fortress “FIFI” and one of only two flying B-24 Liberators, Ol’ 927, from the Commemorative Air Force B-29/B-24 will soar into Hondo Oct. 26 – 28. Hosted by the Commemorative Air Force, CAF, Tex Hill Wing. and the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Chapter 35, this is the public chance to see authentic World War II American aircrafts.

There will be guided tours of the iconic WWII bombers, as well as have the opportunity to ride in them for a fee. Christopher Trobridge, Public Information Officer, said Hondo was home of one of the largest navigation training bases in World War II. “It is appropriate to have these aircrafts return to honor the men and women who built, serviced and flew the aircraft of World War II and Korea,” Trobridge said.

The CAF mission is to acquire, restore, and preserve - in flying condition - a complete collection of combat aircraft, all flown by all military services of the United States and selected aircraft of other nations for education and enjoyment of present and future generations, according to the CAF Web site. The president and CEO of CAF Stephan Brown said that the Commemorative Air Force is not like other museums. “We start our engines, we fly our airplanes and we get loud, taking history to the public, not waiting for them to come to us,” Brown said. “Attending this event is an opportunity for the CAF to continue doing what we do best, educating and reminding Americans of the cost of our freedom.”

The event opens everyday between the Oct. 26 and 28 at 9 a.m. and closes at 5 p.m. Those who would like to reserve a ride in the WWII aircrafts can do so by going to the Squadron’s Web site www.b29b24bomberrides.org.

ABOUT THE CAF’s B-29 “FIFI”

When the Confederate Air Force (now the Commemorative Air Force) began searching for a B-29 for our collection of WWII aircraft, the war had been over for 21 years. The aircraft that helped end it had long since yielded to new generations of jet-powered strategic bombers, and vanished. According to the Air Force, no B-29s remained in inventory ~ even at storage or disposal depots.

Five years later, a pilot reported sighting a number of what might be B-29s on the California desert near China Lake Proving Grounds. The CAF learned the aircraft were indeed Boeing Suprefortresses that had been parked at a Navy weapons center for 17 years. They had been used as gunnery targets. After lengthy negotiations, paperwork, and the pain-staking process of elimination to find the best survivor, the CAF became the owner of B-29 SN44-62070.

A CAF maintenance team arrived at China Lake on 31 March, 1971. In only nine weeks, with the help of CAF volunteers, they restored all flight control systems, replaced all cockpit instruments, and replaced fuel, oil and hydraulic hoses. They ran the engines, conducted landing gear tests and performed many other tests. By 3 August, 1971, SN44-62070 was ready to fly again. The crew took on enough fuel to fly non-stop 1,250 miles to CAF Headquarters. The aircraft and crew lifted off at 7:48 am landing six hour, 38 minute later, in Harlingen, Texas.

The complete restoration 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 WWII fighters and bombers used to preserve the memories and teach of lessons of mankind’s greatest war. Since the initial restoration, “FIFI” has flown thousands of miles bringing history to the entire nation.

In 2005, following a series of engine failures, the B-29/B-24 Squadron made the difficult decision to ground the aircraft and replace the unreliable engines with a hybrid Curtiss-Wright 3350. In August 2010, “FIFI” once again returned to the airshow circuit where she was enthusiastically welcomed. The CAF B-29/B-24 Squadron has received permission from the Federal Aviation Administration to sell flight experiences aboard “FIFI.” Please visit our website find out more about this rare experience.

More from the October 2011 issue More from Hondo, Texas
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The Texas Hill Country, sun splashed hills rolling into the distance, is home to historic towns bursting with character, personalities, and great things to do.
Looking for a fun weekend with festivals, fairs, shopping, food, sightseeing, and more? The Hill Country Current is full of articles, advertising and special events.
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Phone 830-598-6740 • Fax 830-833-4246
P.O. Box 429, 714 4th St. #102, Blanco, TX 78606-0429
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