B-29 Superfortress: 'Fifi' Needs Volunteers

Flying history museum seeks controls engineers to upgrade computerized weapons system and install a fire suppression system for a historic B-29 plane.

Top, a 50-caliber machine gun turret, one of four Crew Chief Dave Miller would like to get restored.
Top, a 50-caliber machine gun turret, one of four Crew Chief Dave Miller would like to get restored.
"Fifi" rolled off the factory assembly line in Renton, WA, in late 1945 and probably never saw combat. However, Fifi is the last remaining flying B-29 Superfortress in the world and is part of the Commemorative Air Force (CAF), a volunteer non-profit organization. This four-engine bomber stars in movies and tours around the U.S. giving rides to help pay for maintenance and gas (97 gallons per hour per engine).

But this “wonder of modern technology” back in 1945 is not completely restored.  The dedicated team of volunteers who want to turn “Fifi” into a living history museum is reaching out to find a CONTROLS engineer (or a whole team) who wants to help out. Dave Miller, crew chief, wants to get the gun turrets and the sophisticated aiming system upgraded, as well as install on all four engines fire detection and control systems.

Automation marketer John Kowal, B&R Industrial Automation, has also been a CAF member for 22 years.  "Between the servo-actuated, computerized fire control and ball bearing screws in the landing gear, this plane foreshadowed the post-ware NC machine tool revolution," says Kowal.  "Now the B-29 team is looking to upgrade yesterday's innovation with today's control technology so tomorrow's generations can see this rare bird full functional."

Below is more information about the central fire control system:

From Wikipedia, “With the revolutionary Central Fire Control System (CFCS), the B-29 had four remote controlled turrets... Four gunners were able to control these turrets with the use of four General Electric-made analog computers, one above the Norden bombsight in the nose and three in a pressurized compartment in the rear fuselage. The gunner manning the sight in the upper rear station was the "Central Fire Control gunner" whose job was to allocate turrets to each of the other three gunners, avoiding confusion in the heat of battle. The CFCS had (at that time) a highly advanced analog computer that corrected for the B-29's airspeed, the target's speed, target lead, gravity, temperature and humidity.”

The generation of vets who flew these beautiful birds is almost at an end.  But we’d sure like to see this living history museum continue on.

Any organizations or individuals who’ve got the time, and the control engineering skills to offer, please contact Dave Miller at dmiller@cafhq.org

>> Video of Fifi in action

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