‘An outdoor history lesson:’ WWII aircraft on display at Tri-City Aviation

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BLOUNTVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) — On display starting Tuesday at Tri-City Aviation is one of the last two B-29 bombers still able to take the skies today, nearly 80 years after they were used in battle. It is a plane that helped turn the tide of World War II for American forces.

“We want to honor the veterans that actually flew these airplanes and honor the men and women that built them,” said Stuart Watkins, AirPower History Tour manager.

The goal is to bring the airplanes to the people, a flying museum. During WWII the revolutionary B-29 bomber was designed to fly higher and faster than enemy fighters.

“There was nothing else that could touch Japan,” said Watkins. “This was the first time that aviation has been credited with winning a war.”

By helping lay mines and cutting off Japan’s resources, the bomber ultimately helped prevent an invasion ending the war early.

“They signed the peace accords on 2 September and saved literally millions of lives on both sides,” said Watkins.

The bomber called “Fifi” at the Tri-Cities airport is one of only two still in existence that are able to fly today.

“Fifi we think is the queen. She’s been doing this since 1975,” said Phil Pedron, maintenance officer and flight engineer.

It takes countless hours of maintenance to keep Fifi flying year-round.

“It’s a labor of love for everybody that’s involved. No question about it,” said Pedron.

The bomber was rescued from destruction in 1945, preserving what would become an outdoor history lesson for years to come.

“A group of very talented people basically got together and designed a new engine from old parts. Much, much more reliable,” said Pedron.

“There were over 400 of these aircraft lost during the war. Each plane had a crew of 11. There was a tremendous sacrifice made by the bomber crews to bring the war to an early conclusion,” said Watkins.

The AirPower History Tour through the Commemorative Air Force takes the planes across the country on a mission to educate, honor and inspire people of all ages. They want people to see history up close.

“That history has become lost over time. We hope to rekindle that with a visit to the plane. They can actually see it, they can see it fly, hear it fly,” said Watkins.

The B-29 bomber Fifi and two other WWII era pilot training aircraft are available for tours and rides at Tri-City Aviation through Sunday, May 30.

Tickets for tours can be purchased on-site, ride tickets are available for purchase ahead of time. More information and schedule details can be found on the AirPower History Tour website.

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