Back when I was a teenager, I made no fewer than three B-29 models. It has always been an aircraft that fascinated me because it was so different in design principle from other bombers of its day. It had been a dream to fly in one ever since then. Though part of me realized even then, this was a highly unlikely scenario.
Zoom to 2018. Back in February, the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in Hamilton informed its members that, “Fifi,” of the Commemorative Air Force out of Texas would be making the museum one of its stops and would be offering rides.
I talked it over with my wife, we both knew the flight would not be cheap. These old girls take a lot of time, effort, oil, gas and rubber to keep in the air. Anybody who flies in one is going to be an enthusiast. In the end, it was a, “Go big or go home,” moment. I could purchase a cheaper place in the rear of the aircraft but at the time we had the scratch, so I reserved the Bombadier’s position right in the nose and yes, it was not cheap.
Two weeks later, the company I was employed at went bankrupt. About a month after that, I bought into a new company. 2018 was not off to a good start but it was off to an expensive one.
Was there any regret at spending so much on the B-29 flight. A little but the reality was, the money was spent and life is short. The experience would be worth it. Plus, a B-50 (the upengined version of the B-29) was going to figure heavily in my next book and actually feeling what it was like to be in the aircraft in flight was going to be a huge plus to writing about it. So I wrestled with my feelings of dread and got on with living my life and making my commitment to my new company matter.
Now any day you fly in a vintage warbird is an experience, with it’s own ups and downs and situations to overcome. When I flew in the Lancaster, it was one of the rougher days in the air I’d ever experienced. I’ll be honest, I was pretty ill for a few hours after the flight. Flying in the PB5Y – Canso was by comparison was a much different experience though because of timing, we did a hot turnaround on the tarmac between flight. Which essentially means they keep the engines running while you board and those props do not feel that far away from you as you do this. Videos of both these flights are available on my Youtube channel.
Flying in, “Fifi,” was not going to be any different.
The first flight of the day was scheduled for 9:30am, my flight was scheduled for 10:30am. I checked in at 9:00am. Then you wait. The first flight was being held because the ceiling was at 900ft and in order to fly, it had to be above 1500ft. No big deal. It was a day that was heating up so the ceiling would lift and the air for the most part felt calm. I reasoned I could get some coverage of start up and taxiing to cut into my head camera footage. About two hours later, the first flight got off the ground.
My group then convened around the flight tent and got to know each other as we waited for their return.
Once the other flight was landed and everybody had deplaned we were led out to the aircraft and had our safety briefing. It was getting on towards about 1:00pm at this point. The safety talk done we boarded. As I was in the nose, I went up first and got into position in the nose and waited for everybody else to board.
The pilots got in, the rest of the guys in the nose got in and we waited for the guys in the back to do the same, and waited, and waited some more. After about fifteen minutes there was some brief radio chatter back and forth between the pilots and the hardstand crew. One of the passengers in the rear, a gentleman who I’d clocked at near if not over eighty had not been physically able to get up the ladder into the tail because of some body mobility issues. Rather than accept the fact he couldn’t accomplish entry, he pushed the issue and slipped and fell into the airframe. We were asked to deplane because of this now medical incident. I knew from my own first aid and enclosed space training this was not going to be an easy situation to resolve.
Paramedics were on scene in record time and we watched them work with the crew and CWHM staff on the hardstand to stabilize the patient and come up with an extraction plan. I’m happy to say, the gentleman was extracted and whisked off to hospital about forty minutes later. I hope the gentleman has since fully recovered from his ordeal. His now empty seat was quickly sold off and we were back in the aircraft fifteen minutes later and taxiing down the runway as soon as the engines were started and run up.
You can watch the whole B-29 Flight here by clicking the link.
As far as flights go, it was great and very different from my other flights. Fifi is treated very gently in the air. When I flew in the Lancaster, the pilots didn’t mind showing off what she was capable of. I and my stomach, sure don’t mind a nice smooth flight.
If you live near a flying museum and have the funds, I highly recommend taking a flight in the warbird of your choice. It helps keep these birds in the air and it also keeps the sacrifices of the men and women who flew and kept them flying and many of who did not survive conflict to come home.
Please also take a look at my books available through Amazon and Createspace by clicking the link and if you like what you read, please leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads.