B-29 / B-24 Squadron
B-29 / B-24 Squadron
The B-29/B-24 Squadron of the Commemorative Air Force brings together the aircraft, pilots and crews from over 70 CAF units across the country to create the AirPower Squadron – an ever changing assortment of military aircraft touring together to bring the sights, sounds and smells of World War II aviation history to audiences across the United States.
The AirPower Squadron always includes at least one of the two rarest World War II bombers in the world – FIFI, the most famous, flying Boeing B-29 Superfortress and Diamond Lil, an equally rare B-24 Liberator. Aircraft accompanying the B-29 or B-24 will include other World War II aircraft such as the P-51 Mustang, the B-17 Flying Fortress and the B-25 Mitchell, along with an assortment of fighters, trainers and liaison aircraft.
Check the tour schedule to see when the tour will be in your area and to learn which airplanes will be at each stop.
About the CAF B-29, FIFI
The Boeing B-29 Superfortress, first flown in 1942, began active service in 1944. It was designed as a replacement for the older B-17s and B-24s, having the longer range and greater bomb loads necessary for operations in the World War II Pacific theater. The B-29 was also used in the Korean War in the early 1950s and was a staple of the U.S. Air Force until the late 1950s.
FIFI was acquired by the CAF in the early 1970s when a group of CAF members found her at the U.S. Navy Proving Ground at China Lake, California where she was being used as a missile target. The airplane was rescued and restored and flew for over thirty years until 2006 when the chief pilot made the decision to ground her pending a complete power plant re-fit. What followed was an extensive four year restoration that included replacing all four engines with new custom built hybrid engines. FIFI returned to the sky in 2010 and since that time has traveled coast to coast attracting large crowds at every tour stop. Learn more about FIFI at www.cafB29B24.org.
About the B-24, Diamond Lil
Contracted to be built for France in 1940 and later contracted to be diverted to Great Britain as AM927, this Liberator was the 25th built out of a total of 18,482 B-24s. The total number built is documented as 19,267 with the inclusion of all variants. This aircraft’s construction was completed as serial number 18 and accepted by the British Air Ministry in May 1941. Two days later, a Consolidated Aircraft Company (CAC) aircrew flew AM927 to Kansas City and handed it over to Trans World Airlines (TWA). TWA had been contracted to conduct flight crew training out of Albuquerque, NM. AM927 was then flown to what was called the TWA “Eagle’s Nest Flight Center” in Albuquerque, NM to be used to train RAF pilots.
The following month, Frank Burcham and Ned MacKrille, TWA instructor pilots, were practicing landings. The right main brake locked up during landing and aircraft departed the runway. The right gear collapsed, followed by a nose gear failure, before they came to a stop. There was also significant damage to the bomb bay. Consolidated initiated a recovery effort over the next 6 months and in December of 1941, the aircraft was flown back to the Consolidated Aircraft Company in San Diego. Due to the aircraft being damaged too far to be returned to service as a bomber, but still flyable, a loan arrangement was made between the British Ministry and Consolidated Aircraft Company for the company to keep possession of AM927 for logistic support and further B-24 development.
AM927 was immediately utilized as the C-87 Liberator Express prototype and returned to service in July 1942. Throughout the war, the aircraft was used to haul personnel and equipment between the five B-24 production plants and numerous vendors. She was also used extensively for flight test purposes developing such things as improved flight control characteristics for the later model Liberator bombers. After the war’s end in November of 1945, actual ownership of AM927 was given to Consolidated Vultee. At this time the aircraft was given registration number NL24927. Numerous modifications were made between 1945 and 1947 to improve performance and sustainability that included the long RY-3 nose and PBY nacelle assemblies.
On November 10, 1948 the aircraft was sold to the Continental Can Company. The aircraft was repainted and outfitted with a luxury interior. The company utilized AM927 for executive transport and cross-country flights between its North American plants for the next 10 years.
In April 1959 the aircraft was sold and exported to the Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex) Mexican state-owned petroleum company. The Registration became XC-CAY and it was used to transport personnel throughout Latin America and the United States. In 1967, Pemex decided to upgrade and replace AM927 with a DC-6 aircraft. At this time, AM927 was loaned to the Commemorative Air Force who eventually took full ownership of the aircraft in May 1968. It was Registered as N12905 until 1990 when it was Registered as N24927. In 1972, AM927 was painted in the colors of the 98th BG, of the Ploesti Raid, and given the name Diamond Lil. During 2006-2007 the aircraft was reconfigured back to her B-24A/RLB-30 roots and was given the Ol' 927 nose art.
In April 2012, the CAF’s long-time Liberator legacy and nose art Diamond Lil was returned. On May 26, 2012, Diamond Lil experienced a complete hydraulic failure and suffered a subsequent nose gear collapse, in Charlotte, North Carolina. Temporary repairs were made and the aircraft was flown back to Addison, Texas. Because of the need to fabricate many replacement parts, restoration was not complete until July of 2013.
Since mid-2013, Diamond Lil has been touring the U.S. providing new and older generations the opportunity to experience this rare aircraft through aircraft tours and ride flights.
About the B-29/B-24 Squadron
The B-29/B-24 Squadron of the CAF was created in the 1970s to support the B-29 FIFI. In 1976 FIFI introduced the concept of warbird barnstorming; FIFI would be flown from city to city and open her hatches to the American public. Squadron founder and supporter Vic Agather envisioned a group of dedicated individuals responsible for the care and operation of this one-of-a-kind warbird. Agather convinced the CAF General Staff (Board of Directors) that a squadron of volunteers would be able to tour the aircraft around the nation and make enough money to be self-sustaining. The CAF General Staff approved of this concept and allowed the B-29 Squadron to be formed.
From this small start, the squadron has grown to over three hundred members from around the world who, for over forty years, have generated enough revenue to keep the B-29 flying.
Today the CAF B-29/B-24 Squadron is based at Dallas Executive Airport. The B-29 is temporarily hangared at the Vintage Flying Museum at Meacham Airport in Fort Worth while we build a new hangar at the Dallas location. Each year the Squadron travels to as many as thirty cities across the nation. At each of these stops the public is able to tour the cockpit of the aircraft (for a donation) and has the opportunity to purchase a flight experience. These flight experiences allow passengers to experience the sight and sounds of a World War II bomber in the air.
Our members are our greatest asset. Members engage with the mission to protect these rare flying monuments to freedom for future generations through preservation, education, exhibition and airshows. Squadron members come from all walks of life. They all share the same interest in preserving and teaching the history of World War II airpower. The Commemorative Air Force and the B-29/B-24 Squadron receive no support from the Federal Government or the U.S. Air Force. The CAF is a 501(c)(3) non-profit educational organization. All donations are tax deductible.
Without the generous support of our members and the public at large, the aircraft of the B-29/B-24 Squadron would not be able to fly. If you would like information about becoming a member or want to make a donation please visit our squadron website at www.cafB29B24.org.
About the Commemorative Air Force
Collecting and flying warbirds for over half a century, the Commemorative Air Force (CAF) is the largest flying museum in the world. The CAF is a non-profit educational organization dedicated to honoring American military aviation history through flight, exhibition and remembrance. The organization feels this is best accomplished by keeping the aircraft flying. The CAF has approximately 12,000 members and a fleet of over 160 airplanes assigned to 63 units across the country. These units, comprised of CAF volunteer members, restore and operate the planes which are viewed by more than 10 million spectators annually. Visit www.commemorativeairforce.org for more information.