The Boeing B-29 is one of the most remarkable airplanes in history, for a number of really big reasons. Today, there are two of them flying, “Fifi,” operated by the Commemorative Air Force, and “Doc,” which flew just a couple of weeks before I had my flight in “Fifi” at AirVenture 2016. The flight itself was remarkable, but the airplane, I discovered, held seemingly a thousand secrets. Here are just a few of them.
Editor-in-Chief Robert Goyer with B-29 captain Steve Zimmerman at AirVenture 2016 in front of the remarkable “Fifi.’”
Stairway to heaven. There are about 7 different ways you can hit your head climbing up into the B-29. I discovered three of them.
An observer looks for traffic as we fly VFR from Appleton, Wisconsin, to Wittman Field in Oshkosh.
In our preflight brief, the captain told us to avoid pulling on the wires, unless we wanted to be flying the airplane, because that's what they do.
There's no mystery where the pressure vessel is in the Boeing B-29. It's the air-lock door, which looks like something you'd find in a submarine or a spaceship.
Just what it looks like—a canvas bag to hold the rope for emergency egress. A rope!
A Boeing B-29’s birth certificate, the data plate.
The tires on the B-29 cost as much as my car—each tire!
One of four 18-cylinder Wright R3350 Duplex Cyclone Engines that power the B-29.
Branding, 1940s style.
What's behind Door Number One?
This is how you check that the gear is down, or up.
Old technology meets new. One of the Bose A20 headsets the “Fifi” crew uses.
The kind of magic the WWII crews of the Boeing B-29 surely wish they had. Then, again, they would have needed GPS, too.
Politically incorrect Bombardier instruction card.
Boeing B-29 logo on the control wheel. Two works of art.
At max fuel flow, a Cirrus would be out of fuel in a matter of minutes. Note that the gauge reads gallons per hour and not pounds. Wow!
The engineer sits facing backwards and controls the throttles. This would take some getting used to.
In flight in the Commemorative Air Force’s Boeing B-29, “Fifi.”
The Boeing B-29 instrument cluster. The scariest thing is that it makes pretty good sense.