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Tue, June 18

Last airworthy WWII B-29 plane comes to Prescott

Matt Hinshaw/The Daily Courier<br>Stuart Watkins, a crew member on the Commemorative Air Force’s Boeing B-29 Superfortress Fifi, talks about the plane’s bomb bay and how it would have been used in World War II Thursday morning at the Prescott Airport.

Matt Hinshaw/The Daily Courier<br>Stuart Watkins, a crew member on the Commemorative Air Force’s Boeing B-29 Superfortress Fifi, talks about the plane’s bomb bay and how it would have been used in World War II Thursday morning at the Prescott Airport.

Fifi is in town this weekend, and she brought some friends along.

Fifi is the name of the only World War II-era Boeing B-29 Superfortress that's still in flyable condition.

The Texas-based non-profit Commemorative Air Force (CAF), which owns Fifi, is touring the aircraft around the western U.S. in the CAF's Airpower History Tour this summer. Prescott is this weekend's stop, where the B-29 is being shown with a B-17G, named Sentimental Journey, a T-6 Texan, C-45 Expediter, C-47 Commando, and a P-51 Mustang.

Built in 1944, the big four-engine bomber and her sisters supplanted the smaller B-17 and B-24.

The atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan that brought about the end of World War II were delivered by B-29 bombers, and they remained in service throughout the Korean War and into the early 1960s.

There are a handful of B-29s on static - non-flying - display, and one is reportedly being restored, but currently Fifi is the only one flying.

The B-29 was the largest aircraft flown in World War II, and the most technologically advanced, with new (for the time) innovations like as a pressurized cabin, an electronic fire-control system, and remote-controlled machine-gun turrets.

Fifi, Sentimental Journey, and the other vintage aircraft are all parked on the ramp at the Ernest A. Love Airport until Sunday evening, and that gives people a chance to compare the sizes of all the planes.

Fifi crew member Stuart Watkins, of Peoria, described himself as a "recovering Army colonel." Watkins said he has a lifelong connection to the B-29, having flown in and crawled all over one when he was a child. His father flew one during World War II and the Korean War, then flew a B-29 based in Scotland for a search-and-rescue outfit. "I've just been fascinated my whole life," he said. "It's where my heart is.

"It's a shame my dad passed away before I found (Fifi) and started working on the crew," he said.

Watkins said federal regulations require six crew members to fly the B-29. "The pilots can't really verify flap position, (landing) gear position, engine oil leaks or fires," he said, noting that he'd dealt with some of those situations.

"It's a very stable (airplane)," he said. "It's an excellent platform for doing the job she was made to do. Very easy to fly."

The price to tour the airplanes, inside and out, is $15 for adults, $10 for kids 10 and up and free for kids under 10. If you've got the money, the CAF will take you up, too. Ride prices range from $75 to $1,795. The airplanes will be open at the general aviation ramp from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

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