Commemorative Air Force Air Power History Tour Flies into Marion for Labor Day Weekend

Aug 30, 2017

With more than 35,000 museums across the country, you’ll likely cross paths with one.

This week a museum flew to Marion.

The Commemorative Air Force flew a Boeing B-29 Super Fortress to the Veterans Airport of Southern Illinois as part of their Airpower History Tour.

If you're interested in Aviation, there are over 200 museums in the country dedicated to it. Illinois has 14 alone.

This week, we’ll have an extra one through the weekend.

The Commemorative Air Force owns dozens of historic aircraft across the country and they fly them to locations in the US and Canada for their history tours.

Charley Rodriguez is a retired SIU Aviation Professor and now is a colonel with the CAF.

He enjoys flying these historical aircraft around the country and educating people on their history and importance during active duty.

“In the past we’ve had literally thousands of people to come out and visit Fifi, and her sister Diamond Lil, the B-24, now this visit we’re also going to have a P-51, a T-34 a Stearman, and probably another airplane or two.”

This weekend’s the main attraction is Fifi, a Boeing B-29 Super Fortress.

In the 40’s Boeing made almost 4,000 B-29s. Fifi is one of two still operational B-29s left in the world.

“It’s really fabulous the technology that this airplane has is pretty sophisticated not only for its day but even by today’s standards and of coarse it’s a 72- or 3- or 4-year old airplane and its still working, so that speaks for itself.”

Flying this plane is not cheap; it takes a lot of fuel and oil.

Tom Travis has been piloting Fifi for the last 12 years and knows exactly how much gas mileage she gets.

“5600 gallons, we burn 400 gallons an hour, easily 9 hours, yeah we get about a half mile a gallon. JEFFORDS: Not very efficient. TRAVIS: Not very efficient, no.”

Travis also says its his favorite airplane to fly and it handles like a 70 year old war aircraft.

“It’s extremely heavy on the controls by comparison, the modern jets are very light, just finger tip control, this is heavy you’ve got to fly it.”

If you’re not a pilot with the CAF don’t worry, Rodriguez says you’ll also have the chance to fly in it over southern Illinois.

“This is an opportunity of a lifetime, you just can’t go fly around in a B-29, and they give very good rides there pretty long rides and you can get up and walk around after your airborne and you can undo the seatbelts, so I do encourage people who want to come out and take a ride.”

Rodriguez says everyone that does take a flight is never disappointed

“Everyone who comes out of these rides are very happy, they have a big grin on their face.”

You won’t be alone up there in the plane; it takes quite the crew to fly Fifi.

Travis says there’s a lot to do during the flight.

“We have of course the pilot and co pilot, but the engineer is a major player in this airplane and we have two scanners in the back and the third guys runs the APU, auxiliary power unit, so its 3 in the front and 3 in the back is the minimum crew.”

Even though this is a flying history museum the members of the CAF also learn some lessons on the road.

“We’re all still learning history, we have veterans come out and tell us things almost every stop that we didn’t know about this airplane and this type of airplane.”

Travis got to see something he never knew about last week in Indiana.

“Last stop we had a gentleman come out and his dad had been a navigator and he brought out his flight computer, manual computer, but he also brought out a watch in a case, it was mounted in 4 springs so that the Hamilton watch, pocket watch would sit there and not vibrate so it wouldn’t change time. I didn’t know they had those.”

Fifi was a war plane but was never used in WWII.

“This particular plane came out too close to the end of the war, I think it was just a couple of months before the war ended in August of 1945, so it didn’t see action but it was of coarse used for various military operations.”

Becoming a museum wasn’t the original plan the Air Force had for Fifi.

“It was going to ultimately become a target airplane; fortunately it did serve that purpose and it’s with us still today.”

The CAF Airpower history tour is open through Sunday September 3rd from 9-5pm at the Veterans Airport of Southern Illinois.

For more information on the Commemorative Air Force Click Here