FiFi!

The only flying B-29 is back, with a new set of engines.

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The R-3350 engine would eventually become one of the more successful radial piston powerplants around, but in early use on the B-29, it had a distressing tendency to burst into flame, to the severe detriment of the airframe and crew.

Indeed, for a while in the early production run of the B-29, there was real doubt that the problems would be solved, and the entire program was thought to be at risk.

2 thoughts on “FiFi!”

  1. The first deployment of the B-29 was to the CBI and Curtis LeMay took over the 20th in Burma, which was operating under more primitive conditions than the 8th AF. LeMay was a MGen when he took over the 20th.

    When LeMay took the 20th Bomber Command, the problems with engine fires were a constant threat that still had to be worked out. LeMay, being an Engineer, was able to work with his maintenance people to work out operation procedures to avoid most of the trouble and make some engine mods that went back to Wright to be incorporated into newer production.

    Haywood “Possum” Hansell was the first CG of the 21st Bomber Command in the Marianas and never could solve the operation problems of the B-29. LeMay was doing well with the 20th, so he was sent to relieve Hansell.

    Hansell and LeMay knew each other in the 8th AF where Hansell was a BGen and LeMay a Col. Like so many from the pre-WW2 era, they were acquainted with each other and knew each other’s reputation as well.

    LeMay doesn’t come right out and say it, but he seemed to dislike relieving Hansell. As an interesting side note, Hansell was a BGen when LeMay relieved him, while LeMay was a MGen by then. Given that Hansell was one of Arnold’s planning brain trust and a “fair haired boy” It’s interseting that Hansell had only one star.

    LeMay incorporated the operating procedures he had worked out in the CBI, as well as field mods to engines that didn’t come from the plant with them and solved the operating problems. After that it was just a matter of the jet stream devil which did not plague teh 8th AF or the 20th. That led to the night fire bombing raids which did to Japan in a couple months what it took the 8th AF 3 years to do in the ETO.

    After VJ day, Spaatz was transferred to the Marianas to be the ostensible CG of the 21st, but took a quick look and knew there was little for him to do. He just kicked back and let LeMay do what he was already doing. Spaatz sent a telex to Arnold stating that the 21st was the most efficient military organization he had ever seen.

  2. My great uncle was a crew chief for B-29s, after surviving the 5th AF in New Guinea. I saw an internet article mentioning his expertise in engine maintenance, esp. carburetor change-outs and engine swaps.

    Long may FiFi fly.

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