Published in Midwest Flyer – August/September 2020 issue
The B-29 Superfortress known today as “FiFi” was built by Boeing-Renton and delivered to the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) on July 31, 1945. Having come off the assembly line shortly before the end of the war, the aircraft’s first assignment was as a training aircraft at Smoky Hill Field in Kansas, followed by assignments at Dalhart, Texas and Grand Island, Nebraska. In late 1947, the aircraft was put into storage at Pyote AFB in Texas.
The aircraft was returned to full bomber configuration for the Strategic Air Command in October 1952. After spending a year back in Kansas, the aircraft again became a training aircraft in 1953, this time at Randolph AFB, Texas. In late 1956, the aircraft was delivered to the China Lake Naval Weapons Center in California to be used for weapons testing.
In the early 1960s, the Commemorative Air Force (then Confederate Air Force) began looking for a B-29 to add to its collection. In 1971, CAF member, Roger Baker, flew over China Lake and saw B-29s parked on the ground, and reported this back to CAF Headquarters. Sponsored by CAF member, Vic Agather, a crew was dispatched to recover one of the airplanes and deliver it to CAF Headquarters. The aircraft arrived in Harlingen, Texas in August of 1971 following a 6-hour 38-minute flight, having been in open storage for nearly 15 years without any preservation. Following a three-year restoration, again sponsored by Vic Agather, the aircraft returned to the sky in 1974 and was named “FiFi” in honor of Vic Agather’s wife.
In 1976, “FiFi” began touring the United States, the first warbird to do so, bringing flying history to different locations around the country. Over the next 30 years, “FiFi” told the story of the B-29 and World War II aviation history to countless people. For most of that time, the aircraft was the only B-29 most people would ever see in the air, or on the ground. In 2006, the decision was made to ground the aircraft for some much-needed maintenance, including replacing the original B-29 engines with later, custom-built engines.
In 2010, with the engines now replaced, “FiFi” returned to the Airpower History Tour to pay tribute to the men who flew and maintained B-29s, and to the women who built them.