CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — A squadron of World War II-era aircraft began touring the United States this week as a B-29 Superfortress and a B-24 Liberator travel to select cities offering tours and flights to the public.
Owned by the Commemorative Air Force, the two bombers began a 27-city tour on May 16 stopping in Montgomery before arriving in Chattanooga. Popular smaller warbirds are scheduled to join the B-29A Superfortress known as FiFi and the B-24 Liberator nicknamed Diamond Lil.
“Our mission is to bring history to the people — we are a flying museum,” CAF spokesperson Don Boccaccio said as we stood on the flightline of Chattanooga’s Lovell Airport on Sunday. “Most of the time we get veterans at our stops who flew on them or worked on them. We have alot of good veteran stories of how they return to fly with us after 75 years.”
These “flying museums” allow both young and old to get up close with the aircraft and even go inside. For family members of fallen World War II veterans, the tour has given them a since of closure for those who never made it back home.
“We had a woman who’s dad was the B-29 pilot for Straight Flush, which was the lead weather B-29 for the dropping of the atomic bomb,” Boccaccio continued. “So she flew in FiFi with us, she was very emotional, crying as she sat in the navigator’s seat.”
The public can purchase flights aboard one or both aircraft during each city visit. The flight fee covers the great fuel consumption associated with the multi-engine, 75 year-old hulking aircraft.
“FiFi costs us over 10 thousand dollars an hour to run”, Boccaccio added. “It uses 400 gallons of gasoline an hour and 1.5 gallons of oil per engine an hour.” In other words, that’s six milk jugs of oil each hour.
Memorial Day weekend saw huge turnouts to witness the rare sight of a B-29 and B-24 aircraft take-off and land. Veterans attending were recognized and allowed to board the aircraft first to honor their past service.
“Memorial Day is very emotional to us,” Boccaccio noted. “A lot of veterans came today because it’s Memorial Day. And, we chose to come early to Chattanooga to thank our veterans this week.”
The CAF B-29/B-24 Squadron Tour Continues
Tri-Cities – Bristol, Kingsport, and Johnson City, Tenn… May 29 – June 2
Salisbury, Maryland… June 3-5
Reading, Pennsylvania… June 7-9
Baltimore, Maryland… June 12-16
Lexington, Kentucky… June 19-23
Click here for their full tour schedule including links to the local airport’s web sites. CAF is looking for volunteers during each city stop. Click here to help out at a location near you, or to donate and shop to keep these aircraft flying.
(Charles A Atkeison reports on aerospace and technology. Follow his updates via social media @Military_Flight.)