By: Jacques Robitaille and Pamela Mickelson
Get ready to rumble in Siouxland!
The rumble of engines from one of the rarest World War II bombers, the B-29 Superfortress FIFI will be heard over the skies of Siouxland in August when she visits Sioux Gateway Airport as part of the AirPower History Tour of the Commemorative Air Force. The event is being held in partnership with the Mid America Museum of Aviation and Transportation.
The bomber is to be accompanied by a T-6 Texan and a PT-13 Stearman.
The Boeing B-29 was the most advanced four-engine bomber of WWII and featured many innovations such as a pressurized cockpit, remote-control computerized fire-control system that operated four machine gun turrets, and onboard radar. It was the most expensive weapons project undertaken by the United States during the war, costing more than $3 billion, which exceeded the cost of the Manhattan Project that developed the atomic bomb. The bomber could fly higher, 31,850 feet, than any other bomber of the period and had a top speed of 350 miles per hour.
Superfortresses were used in the China-Burma-India Theater and in the Pacific Theater of Operations where their range could take the air war to Japan. Hundreds of B-29s at a time would make the 3,000-mile round-trip from the islands of Guam, Saipan, and Tinian on missions lasting anywhere from 12 to 18 hours.
On August 6, 1945, the B-29 Enola Gay dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Three days later, the B-29 Bockscar, dropped a second atomic bomb on Nagasaki. Those two missions led to the end of the war and the surrender ceremony on the deck of the USS Missouri on September 2 with 525 B-29s flying overhead in a show of force.
FIFI is one of only two flying B-29s in the world. She was acquired by the CAF in 1971 from the U.S. Navy Proving Grounds in China Lake, California. After a three-year restoration she began touring in 1974 and has been entertaining air show audiences across the country ever since.
Known as the “Pilotmaker,” the T-6 Texan was an advanced flight trainer manufactured by North American Aviation, the same company that built the P-51 Mustang fighter. First flown in 1935, the T-6 introduced new pilots to a complex aircraft with more speed, 200-plus miles per hour, to prepare them for the warbirds they would fly in combat in WWII. The T-6 was designed for an instructor and student, and had a closed cockpit. Airshow fans may notice the T-6 serving the CAF as an impersonator—several of the airplanes have been slightly modified and painted as Japanese torpedo bombers and fighters for the Tora, Tora, Tora re-enactment of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
The Boeing PT-13 was the primary flight trainer for all branches of the military during World War II. Officially named the Boeing Model 75, this plane is almost universally known as the “Stearman”. If an aspiring aviator wanted to earn his wings, he started in the iconic bi-plane, which was sturdily built to withstand the abuse of flight students. The open cockpit airplane had a maximum speed of 135 miles per hour. A ride in the fully aerobatic Stearman brings back the wind-in-your hair feeling of the early days of flying.
The aircraft will be located at the Sioux Gateway Airport. Parking and entrance gates are located at the south end of the field at 6121 Pershing St., Sioux City. The Mid America Museum of Aviation and Transportation is located just off Harbor Drive on the northeast corner of the field at 2600 Expedition Ct., Sioux City, IA 51111. Plenty of parking is available at both sites.
A big band dance will feature the Mearl Lake Orchestra and VIP access to The Commemorative Air Force (CAF) crew on Saturday August 10 at the air museum. To purchase tickets go to www.midamericaairmuseum.org. To book a ride on any of the CAF aircraft, go to www.airpowertour.org.
Collecting aircraft for nearly a half a century, the CAF now ranks as one of the largest air forces in the world. Today the CAF has approximately 13,000 members and a fleet of more than 175 aircraft representing more than 60 different types, including planes from several foreign countries and other military conflicts since World War II. The CAF was founded to acquire, restore and preserve in flying condition a complete collection of combat aircraft which were flown by all military services of the United States, and selected aircraft of other nations, for the education and enjoyment of present and future generations of Americans.
The Headquarters of the CAF is located in Dallas, TX. CAF members live in every state and 28 foreign countries. In 26 states and four foreign countries, members have joined together and formed units to foster camaraderie and, in many cases, actively support one or more of the classic military aircraft operated by the CAF.
More than just a collection of airworthy warplanes from the past, the CAF’s fleet of historic aircraft, known as the CAF Ghost Squadron, recreate, remind and reinforce the lessons learned from the defining moments in American military aviation history in a living tribute to the men and women who built, maintained and flew them.
The airshow will be open to the public from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, August 7-11. Access to the ramp where the warbirds are parked is $15 for adults, $9 for children ages 10-17 and free for children nine and under. Supporting aircraft will be offering rides all five days. The B-29 flies on Saturday and Sunday at 9:00 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. Cockpit tours of the B-29 will be available beginning at 9 a.m., except on Saturday and Sunday when they will begin at noon.
The ramp fee includes free admission to the Mid America Museum of Aviation and transportation, located at the airport at 2600 Expedition Ct., Sioux City IA 51111. Additional information about the museum can be found at MidAmericaAirMuseum.org.