After Fifi, the world’s only flying B-29, made a precautionary landing at AIRSHO in Midland last October, the big bomber hasn’t made another flight since. The problem, as most of our readers are aware, is that engine maintenance is expensive for all of us. When you factor in the cost of repairing one of the 2,200 hp double-row Wright R-3350-23 radial engines, well, normal economics go out the window.
The scope of the job was extensive but it could have been worse, following the failure of the accessory drive shaft. David Oliver, head of flight ops for CAF, told Flying that the team had to “not only fix the accessory drive shaft but also many of the internal seals, bearings, and planetary gearing system. We were lucky to not damage any of the cylinders but as you can image there are many spinning parts inside the bowls of the engine.”
Despite the roughly $100,000 price tag of the repair, the Commemorative Air Force (CAF) was able to raise the money for the job. On Saturday Fifi returned to the skies above its home in Midland, Texas, where it made a successful maintenance hop followed by another 90-minute trip. The CAF plans to bring Fifi to a number of events throughout the year.
While that’s all good news, the organization says that it is only halfway to its goal of raising $200,000; the first half went toward repairing the bad engine and the rest would go for buying a spare, a necessity for the four-engine Boeing. The spare would allow the CAF to quickly swap a bad engine, keep Fifi in the air and make repairs while the B-29 is doing what it today does best: wow the crowds of people at airshows. For more information about how you can help, visit www.keepFIFIflying.org.