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World War II-era bomber showcased in Sioux City this week
Take a ride on an old warplane

World War II-era bomber showcased in Sioux City this week

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b-29 taxiing on the runway

With a wingspan of 141 feet and top speed of more than 400 miles per hour, Boeing B-29 Superfortress aircraft like FIFI -- seen taxiing down the runway at Sioux Gateway Airport on Monday -- were considered state-of-the-art bombers during World War II and the Korean War.

SIOUX CITY -- From about May through October for the past seven years, Mark Novak has gotten to be the curator of a very unique piece of history.

That is, if you can call FIFI, a surviving Boeing B-29 Superfortress, flown primarily in World War II and Korea, a flying "museum."

Novak, a retired U.S Air Force pilot and one of the B-29 aircraft commanders, said the four-engine, propeller-driven heavy bomber would have a limited audience if stuck away, gathering dust.

"No, this is a plane that needs to be flown," he said of the plane that was retired in 1958, placed at the China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station in California as part of a group of 36 B-29s before being acquired, as a civilian aircraft, in the early 1970s by the nonprofit Commemorative Air Force (CAF).

cockpit of FIFI

Tours of the interior of FIFI, a vintage World War II plane, will take place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, and from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, at the Sioux Gateway Airport. Rides on the plane will take place on Saturday and Sunday morning.  

Indeed, FIFI -- nicknamed after the wife of Col. Victor Agather, the catalyst behind the B-29's restoration -- will be showcased as part of the CAF AirPower History Tour.

From Wednesday through Sunday, aircraft tours on the FIFI will take place at the Sioux Gateway Airport, 6121 Pershing St. In addition, flights on the B-29 will be available Saturday and Sunday, while a Big Band dance, featuring the Mearl Lake Orchestra, will be held from 7 to 10 p.m. Saturday at the Mid America Museum of Aviation & Transportation, 2600 Expedition Court.

With a wingspan of 141 feet, the B-29 Superfortress had the ability to travel with a speed of more than 400 miles per hour. 

That made planes like FIFI cutting edge back in the day.

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"The B-29s came 40 years after the Wright Brothers took their first flight," Novak said. "That was how fast aviation progressed." 

Being a part of the FIFI flight crew means a lot to Novak. After all, it honors the men who flew on B-29s and the "Rosie the Riveters" who helped to build them. 

Equally as important are the families who get to discover a different side to their family members.

"The guys who served didn't think of themselves as heroes," Novak said. "After the war, most went back to their normal lives."  

fifi close-up on nose

A surviving Boeing B-29 Superfortress and one of two that are currently flying, the restored FIFI will be at the Sioux Gateway Airport Wednesday through Sunday. A tour of the aircraft as well as rides on the vintage World War II era Boeing Supercarrier will be a part of the program, which is a fundraiser for Mid America Museum of Aviation & Transportation. 

However, put a WWII or Korean War vet in close proximity of a B-29, and then the stories start pouring out.

"We've had 90-year-old guys talk about their wartime experiences, possibly, for the very first time," he said. "That's very gratifying to experience."

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