Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Commemorative Air Force B-29 "Fifi" and other warbirds Tucson, Arizona February 20, 2015

                      Bomb bay of the B-29, could carry 20,000 pounds of bombs or one atomic weapon

History: The Commemorative Air Force (CAF), formerly known as the Confederate Air Force, began in Texas in 1958 with the goal of restoring and showing historical aircraft at airshows throughout the United States and Canada, Since then the CAF has restored over 150 aircraft and they have branches in other states. One of the bigger ones is at Mesa, Arizona, where 30 aircraft are based. During the summer the CAF takes some of their more popular restored aircraft on tour.

From the 19th to the 22nd of  February the CAF, displayed four World War II warbirds at the Tucson International Airport. The planes which came included the only flying B-29 "FIFI", B-25 "Maid in the Shade", C-45 "Bucket of Bolts," and a C-47. I was especially interested in seeing the inside of "FIFI" because Pima Air and Space does not open their aircraft up to visitors and I had never seen inside a B-29. Quintin and I  toured the aircraft on Friday. It costs $10 total which helps with maintenance and flying the planes. CAF volunteers told me it costs between $5000 to $8000 to fly the B-29 and $3,000 to $5,000 to fly the C-47. As a result every little bit helps to keep these planes in the air. The CAF also makes money off of plane rides. Prices vary on the B-29 from about $600 at the left and right blister (back of plane) to $1700 at the Bombardier's section at the very front of the aircraft. The C-45 is a little more affordable at $75 for a half hour. People will pay these prices because the B-29 and B-25 were very important in World War II. The B-29 fire-bombed Japanese cities and dropped the atomic weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The B-25 became famous for the Doolittle raid on Japan. In April 1942 sixteen B-25s led by Jimmy Doolittle  took off from the USS Hornet. Their mission was to avenge the attack on Pearl Harbor. Each plane bombed their target but 15 crashed in China and one diverted to Russia. This attack raised the spirits of America.  It is good to know that groups such as the CAF work hard to keep this history alive. Some information from "B-25 Maid in the Shade Commemorative Air Force Airbase Arizona Aviation Museum"

                  Inside the cockpit of the B-29, the Bombardier's seat at the extreme front of the airplane with the location of the Norden Bombsite

                       Flight Engineer's controls; he maintained airspeed and kept the engines running.

                                     Close up of the Bombardier's section; Norden Bombsite provided calculations for the dropping of bombs.

                              Front of "FIFI"

                     C-45 with Qunitin in front

                        Inside the C-47; after World War II it became the Executive Aircraft for Hoover Vacuum Cleaner.

                               Quintin at one of the window

                         The front of the C-47;  this one saw action during World War II in Italy and Eastern Europe.

                         Quintin hugging one of the propellers on "FIFI"

                 Side of the B-29 looking at the left two engines

                 B-25 "Maid in the Shade" flying in

                 Front of B-25

      Inside the B-25; unlike the B-29 this was not pressurized.

                     Looking back inside the plane the right and left gunner's station

                                      Cockpit of the B-25

                              Me in front of the B-29

Mount Kimball Summit Hike Catalina Mountains February 21, 20015

                           GPS rendition of our route up Mount Kimball

Directions: From the University of Arizona take Campbell Road North toward the Catalina Mountains. After River Road Campbell become two-lanes with curves so watch your spped. At Sunrise  Drive turn to the right (east). Follow Sunrise until you see the turn-off for Skyline Drive. The Finger Rock Trail head is on Alvernon Drive left off of Skyline

My friend Nathan and I arrived at the trail head at 10;15 am. our objective was to summit Mount Kimball. With an elevation gain of over 4,200 feet in approximately 5 miles this is a challenging hike. The trail is also extremely rocky and narrow making adding to its difficulty. Last year I made it up to the saddle where there is a junction for the Ventana Canyon and Pima Canyon trails. At this point my hamstring was tightening and cramping so I made the decision to turn around and go back to the car. Ever since that day I had sought to summit the peak. Because of our late start Nathan and I had to keep moving in order to finish the hike before 530 pm. I got into my grinding pace churning out the miles. About three miles in Nathan and I met two girls who were working in Arizona on a temporary basis sadly they hiked faster than I did so I was not able to talk with them. At the saddle we took a break and moved on. The summit of Mt. Kimball is wooded but there are a few rock out crops that give hikers almost a 360 degree view. The view from the top (we hiked to a rock outcrop 400 feet above the presumed top of Mt. Kimball) was extraordinary with the Biosphere to the North-west and Picacho Peak to the west. Sadly because it was late in the day we could only stay on top for ten minutes  On the way back to the car my walking stick became useful to decrease the strain on my knees. I  also ate some salt to relieve my cramping hamstrings. Overall Nathan and I hiked about 11 miles with about 4500 feet of vertical change. The trail is easy to follow and minimal route finding skills are needed.

 Part way up Finger Rock Canyon

              Looking north near the top

                East from the outcrop on top

                      Me on top

                                                 Cool dead tree in the canyon

                            Looking up Finger Rock from near the bottom