Another week in the books!! Wednesday felt like Christmas in May with the homecoming of my best friend. I had been looking forward to the event for so long, and now that it's passed, I am suffering from those same post-holiday doldrums. Thankfully, lunch came with a special surprise today as the skies of DC filled with World War II era planes. The flyover was to commemorate the seventieth anniversary of Victory Day, and it did not disappoint!
For as much as I love planes and history, I've never been a huge fan of planes from the WWII era. I've always preferred the sassy fighter jets of modern day. For me, their sleek lines and perfect angles make them more like pieces of art than machines of war. They are just so pretty! In stark contrast, those from the 1940's - like the B-29 and P-51 - look bulky and disjointed. Nothing about them really ever struck me.
However, Fifi was a thing of beauty and a rare gem! She is the only B-29 that remains on active flying status. After she roared overhead during this afternoon's demonstration, I quickly found my way to Google...
googled: b-29 superfortress
I had underestimated the presence of that plane. It was a completely different experience watching it soar above the WWII Memorial. Every B-29 I've ever seen has sat lifeless in a museum hanger. The engines might not have pierced the air like an F-18, but there was something very striking about the flyover. I can only imagine how impressive a full formation of Superfortresses - called a "combat box" - must have been. This particular arrangement consisted of 12 to 36 planes, and the tight formation allowed the interlocking fire from neighboring machine guns to shield the group as a whole. Using this technique, long range bombers were able to carry out their missions without fighter escorts.
The B-29 design was was highly advanced for its time, and remained in service long after the war ended. It was the first aircraft to have a pressurized cabin, contain a "Central Fire System" to remotely control four .50 caliber machine guns, as well as an analog computer to electronically aim weapons after calculating factors like airspeed, temperature, and humidity. Additionally, sixty-five B-29s were selected for "Silverplate" modifications. These planes were outfitted to carry atomic weapons.
Both the Enola Gay and Bockscar were hand picked from the Glenn L. Martin manufacturing plan in Omaha, Nebraska (woot woot!) to be part of the Silverplate program. (Does "L. Martin" look vaguely familiar?! It was later renamed Lockheed Martin. So by the transitive property, I like to think the SR-71 Blackbird also has origins in Omaha...just sayin!) The Enola Gay actually lives a few minutes down the road from me at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia. Obviously, I've already been to see her. She is beautiful, and until recently was missing an important little detail...find out what it was by reading this New York Times article: The Enola Gay: A Minor Mystery, Solved! (It's a fun Boston College meets history, meets small world, kind of story!)
Below are a few photos from the flyover. The first one features Fifi. Enjoy your weekend sassy cats! See you next week! (Also, don't forget to call home on Sunday...it's Mother's Day!)