By Tzar Wilkerson
In keeping with the CAF’s goal of celebrating the U.S. Air Force’s rich history, the AirPower History Tour offers the people of the Tri-City area the opportunity to experience World War II-era aviation at Tri-Cities Aviation in Blountville May 29 to June 2.
At the spacious, bustling Tri-Cities Airport, nonstop flights to and from hubs in Atlanta, Charlotte, Orlando and Tampa/Clearwater-St.Petersburg fill the air with commercial airlines on Allegiant, American, and Delta. Serving Northeast Tennessee, Southwest Virginia, Western North Carolina and Eastern Kentucky, Tri-Cities Airport is an important location in the East-Coast airline circuit. If you are travelling to the Celebration, the amenities of the Airport’s 23,000-sq-ft concourse – including a bar, restaurant, ATM, and free wifi — should come in handy. Located on the west side of Tri-Cities Airport, Tri-Cities Aviation is an FBO (Fixed Base Operator) that performs storage, fueling, and maintenance work for private and commercial aircraft, making them perfect hosts for the AirPower History Tour.
A Flying Museum
Admission to the ramp is free for children under ten years old ($8 for youth, $15 for adults) and will allow visitors to purchase rides and tour the cockpits of the bombers FIFI (a Boeing B-29 Superfortress) and Diamond Lil (a Consolidated B-24 Liberator) when they aren’t in the air. In addition to the two bombers, the C-45 Expeditor and the PT-13 Stearman and other aircraft will also be available for rides Wednesday through Sunday. While the supporting aircraft will be offering rides all five days, the B-29 and the B-24 will only be flying on the mornings of Saturday and Sunday, so make sure to book seats in advance at www.airpowertour.org.
About The CAF B-29 Superfortress FIFI
FIFI was acquired by the CAF in 1974 when a member found her at the U.S. Navy Proving Ground at China Lake, California. The airplane was rescued and restored by a group of CAF volunteers and has flown for over 45 years traveling coast to coast each year attracting large crowds at every tour stop. The Boeing B-29 Superfortress, first flown in 1942, began active service in the US Army Air Corp in 1944 and is best known as the aircraft whose missions over Japan helped bring an end to World War II. 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 1960. Learn more about FIFI and her tour schedule at www.airpowertour.org
About the CAF B-24 Liberator Diamond Lil
DIAMOND LIL was the 26th production B-24 built. The CAF has been operating LIL for more than 50 years, since 1968, visiting local airports throughout the United States as the one of the feature aircraft in the CAF AirPower History Tour. In the fall of 2018, LIL returned to the skies after a three-year restoration. Today, DIAMOND LIL is one of two airworthy B-24s. The Consolidated B‐24 Liberator, first flown in 1939, began active service in 1941 and was the most produced American aircraft of World War II, with 18,482 built. The Liberator was used in every theater of the war and for a variety of missions from long-range bombing and submarine patrol, to transporting high priority cargo and VIPs. Learn more about DIAMOND LIL and her tour schedule at www.airpowertour.org
About the Commemorative Airforce
Through more than six decades of collecting, and flying World War II aircraft, the CAF has become the world’s largest flying museum. Their fleet of over 170 World War II airplanes are assigned to unit locations across the U.S. and supported by 12,000 volunteer members. Nearly all the aircraft are kept in flying condition, enabling people to experience firsthand the sight and sound of vintage military aircraft in flight. The CAF is dedicated to honoring American military aviation through flight, exhibition, education, and remembrance. To learn more about the Commemorative Air Force, please visit www.commemorativeairforce.org
Also, be sure to commemorate the occasion with a $10 t-shirt (now on sale at Tri-City Aviation) – all proceeds go to the Appalachian Aviatrixes of the Ninety-Nines scholarship fund, which helps female pilots earn their wings. Foodies should look forward to the seven local food trucks that will be catering the event, but the main attraction is the opportunity to see history up close and in flight.