Flying In “Fifi” (Day One) — Takeoff!

Yesterday I think I said that you would be rid of my constant goings on about “Fifi,” the world’s only flying B-29.

I lied. It’s going to take at least two more days beyond today.

Today I got to actually fly in “Fifi” myself and it’s going to take at least three days to share those pictures. It was WONDERFUL! (And I’m even more exhausted tonight than I was last night, hard as that might be to believe, so I’ll be brief.)

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How can you not take a grinning-like-an-idiot selfie on a morning when you get to fly in “Fifi,” the world’s only flying B-29?

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I and four other CAF staff and guests got to sit up in the cockpit area, where the best views are. You get there by climbing about eight or ten feet up on that ladder through this hole, and getting your feet up there without falling back down on your ass. Not quite as easy as it sounds, especially with a backpack full of cameras and an ass, legs, and back that don’t do the things they used to do.

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Another look at the front of the cockpit, the access route up to the cockpit, and the main landing gear.

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One person gets to sit in the bombardier’s seat, way up front where you can see everything. The pilot and co-pilot sit behind the bombardier.

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Behind the pilots are the flight engineer, who leans out an open window as needed, and the forward gunner (out of sight at the left). While it looks like there are provisions for putting a window in next to the flight engineer if needed, at 75°F it wasn’t needed. Surprisingly, it’s not that windy at all inside the cockpit with the window open through all phases of flight.

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From the cockpit, back over the bomb bay, is a tunnel just big enough to crawl through. In theory. I didn’t try it. Between the tunnel on the back wall and the flight engineer/gunner positions are where the radio operator and navigator’s sat. This is the section I was in.

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There’s a small window on the right hand site at the navigator’s table. We warmed up all four engines (geez Louise, OMG it’s loud in there when they’re all running!) to get them warmed up. Then they got shut down, the plane is towed out onto the taxiway, and the crew buttons her up. The two inboard engines start and “Fifi” taxis down to taxiway Bravo (shown here0, one of the only places out on the field that’s big enough to allow the pre-flight warmup. The two outboard engines are fired up, all four engines are tested at flight speed, then we’re ready to go.

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Takeoff is every bit as loud and exciting as you would expect. Here we’ve gone out on Runway 26 at Camarillo and turned right to head east toward Palm Springs.

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Over Simi Valley, looking out through the bombardier’s position in the nose, we flew over the Reagan Library (the white boxy building in all of that green, just to the right of the center column.

And yes, the nose does look like the Millennium Falcon from Star Wars, but George Lucas didn’t get ripped off by the guys who rebuilt the bomber. It’s actually the other way around. (C’mon folks, google it! B-29 built in mid-1940’s, George Lucas created Millenium Falcon in 1986. Who came first?)

Tomorrow – Out Over Los Angeles

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