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updated: 7/21/2011 3:15 PM

Last flying superfortress lands at DuPage Airport Community Days

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  • FIFI, the Last Flying B-29 Superfortress, will be at the DuPage Airport Community Days festival this weekend.

      FIFI, the Last Flying B-29 Superfortress, will be at the DuPage Airport Community Days festival this weekend.
    Planepictures.net

  • World War II veteran Joe Chovelak holds a photo of the B-29 bomber he flew during the war. Chovelak flew 35 missions as a radio operator in the Pacific Theater.

      World War II veteran Joe Chovelak holds a photo of the B-29 bomber he flew during the war. Chovelak flew 35 missions as a radio operator in the Pacific Theater.
    Daniel White

  • Naperville resident Joe Chovelak, far right, was a member of the 29th Bomb Squadron in the 20th Air Force Division during World War II. He was stationed in Guam for six months at the end of the war and will fly again in a B-29 on Saturday.

      Naperville resident Joe Chovelak, far right, was a member of the 29th Bomb Squadron in the 20th Air Force Division during World War II. He was stationed in Guam for six months at the end of the war and will fly again in a B-29 on Saturday.

  • Video: FIFI takes flight

 
By Megan Bannister

It's a war bird. It's a plane. It's a Superfortress!

Look up in the sky this weekend over DuPage Airport and you'll see a history lesson flying over the airport's annual Community Days. The two-day celebration will feature rides and tours of the only flying B-29 bomber as well as other aircraft.

"Our goal in having this weekend is for families to come out for a fun weekend but also a very, very affordable (one)," said Anna Normoyle, marketing coordinator at the DuPage Airport Authority.

Visitors can ride in the vintage bomber, rescued from a Navy weapons center in the California desert in 1971 by the Commemorative Air Force, a cadre of volunteers dedicated to preserving military aircraft. The plane is now known as FIFI, the Last Flying B-29 Superfortress.

With activities from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, July 23 and 24, Community Days will offer residents a look at the newly restored vintage bomber.

According to the CAF website, "FIFI has experienced numerous problems with her engines in the 30-plus years she's been flying with CAF." In 2006 the bomber was grounded and restoration of the plane's ailing engines began.

"It was sort of a major accomplishment for the volunteers who worked so hard to get her flying again," said Autumn Hicks, director of public relations and marketing for CAF.

The engine restoration was completed in August 2010 and cost an estimated $2 million, funded by donations.

Since restoration, Hicks said, the "engines have been working beautifully."

Flights are tentatively scheduled for 9 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. both days. For those who prefer to keep their feet on the ground, the B-29 bomber will be open for guided tours throughout the weekend.

Normoyle said organizers "try to keep it interesting" for the weekend-long event. This year visitors also will be able to explore the museum's static aircraft displays, vintage military vehicles and a P-51 Mustang "Gunfighter."

FIFI also will pay tribute to a few more recent veterans while it is in the area for educational and fundraising efforts.

The Medal of Honor Foundation will host a Medal of Honor Educational Program, unaffiliated with Community Days, at 10 a.m. Friday, July 22, at the DuPage Airport.

Five Medal of Honor recipients will teach attendees about the importance of courage, commitment, sacrifice and patriotism through firsthand experiences.

Following the program, the Medal of Honor recipients will ride in the vintage bomber and P-51 Mustang "Gunfighter."

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