There were thousands of Boeing B-29 Superfortresses built during World War II. They are magnificent airplanes with four massive engines, propellers 16 feet in diameter, and a wingspan of 141 feet. That distance is longer than the Wright Brothers first flight.
by Ronald Khol, Editor
After the war, a few B-29s were spirited away to become static displays in museums, and others were assigned to a Navy gunnery range for use as targets. But most were chopped to pieces and sold for scrap.
In the entire world, only one B-29 remains in flyable condition. It is owned by the Confederate Air Force. (I refuse to call the organization by its new name, the Commemorative Air Force. The name change was forced on the organization by political correctness run amok, but that's a whole other story.)
At any rate, let me introduce you to Tony Mazzolini, who in his day job is regional manager of materials services for the Continental Airlines maintenance base in Cleveland. Tony joined the Confederate Air Force in the early 1980s, and shortly thereafter founded the Cleveland Wing of the CAF. I first met him when I joined the CAF more than 10 years ago. As a young man, he had served as an Air Force flight engineer on several multiengine aircraft, including a B-29, and he got it into his head that maybe there was still another B-29 somewhere that the CAF could acquire and return to flying status. He began his search and eventually found one at the Navy Weapons Center in China Lake, Calif. It was in sorry shape, but the essential parts were intact and deemed restorable.
Meanwhile, the CAF decided it didn't need a second B-29, so Tony embarked alone in an attempt to bring the B-29 out of the desert and make it airworthy. For this purpose he founded an organization called the United States Aviation Museum.
Now I'll fast forward to the present. After an arduous odyssey too complex to relate here, he managed to save the B-29, and it is currently being rebuilt at a facility of the Boeing Airplane Co. in Wichita, Kans. Although I have belonged to USAM for several years, in addition to retaining CAF membership, my day job kept me too busy to contribute to either organization in a meaningful way. However, several months ago, Tony invited me to become the USAM volunteer public-relations director.
So that is why I am writing about a B-29 here in Machine Design. I am making a blatant appeal for new members as well as financial support for USAM. (Memberships for individuals are a mere $60 per year.) Already, numerous corporations and individuals support our effort, and although we are grateful to see even dollar bills put into our donation jug at fund-raising events, I am hoping this column will inspire major corporate Sugar Daddies to step forward. You know who you are. I see you sponsoring air shows and aircraft appearances across the nation. Surely there is room in your budget to help us with our B-29. We are in special need of funds to cover the cost of overhauling the four engines. In all, we can use either financial support or assistance with aircraft components and subsystems. If things go according to plan, the B-29 could take to the air early next year.
-- Ronald Khol, Editor