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Airborne's Annual April 1st Episode

Thu, Apr 01, 2010

NASM Announces National Tour For Enola Gay

Famous Airplane Will Fly Again, Thanks To Extensive, Secret Renovation

ANN April 1st Special Edition: The National Air and Space Museum made a surprising announcement Thursday. In honor of the 65th anniversary of the end of WWII, the NASM staff has been secretly preparing the B-29 Enola Gay to make her airworthy for a commemorative flight across the United States. The tour will begin in June and run through August. After the tour, the plane will be disassembled into large pieces that will be shipped by a special train from the final tour stop back to the Udvar-Hazy Center, which is at Dulles Airport in Washington, DC. The announcement is being made to enable the warbird community as a whole to modify the airshow schedule so that other WWII aircraft will be able to participate in the historic event.

This will be a one-way trip that will be long-remembered by the warbird and historical community.

FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt and NASM Director  Gen. John R. Dailey, USMC (Ret),made the surprise joint announcement at a news conference at the Udvar-Hazy Center Thursday. The media release indicated Dailey would be talking about the building of another hangar at the Center to house more aerospace artifacts, such as the famous Memphis Belle. That B-17F was recently “recalled” by the USAF Museum from its previous home on Mud Island in Memphis, TN. But instead the media were surprised with the Enola Gay announcement.

The itinerary will take the famous B-29 to some thirteen airports from one coast to the other. Since the B-29 will not be carrying bombs (or an A-bomb like she did in August, 1945), she will be able to make trips of several hundred miles at a time as she works her way across the Nation. Some of the stops are at unlikely places, but because the time of the flight will correspond with part of the summer airshow season, towns that are not on the airshow circuit become logical choices for stops on the tour. The Enola Gay will spend between two and four days at each stop, depending upon the size of the crowds expected, and to give the crew time to rest and maybe do a little fine-tuning and/or tinkering with the B-29.

The stop at Omaha, NE will be special, because the Enola Gay, while designed by Boeing, was one of the 531 B-29 Superfortresses manufactured by the Glenn Martin Aircraft Company in Omaha. Col. Paul Tibbets, her chief pilot, picked her off the assembly line himself, and named her “Enola Gay,” in honor of his mother.

The stop at Salt Lake City, UT will include a special recognition of the crew of the Enola Gay, and every other B-29 crew in the 509th Composite Bomb Group. B-29 pilots trained for their top-secret bombing mission at Wendover Air Force Base (now closed), about 60 miles from Salt Lake City.

The anniversary tour was conceived when the Enola Gay was undergoing a complete restoration that began in the 1980s. Under the orders of the NASM administrators, everything on the Enola Gay was restored to airworthy condition. Wright R-3350 radial engines were test-run in the Garber facility one at a time in 2001, and NASM personnel explained to curious neighbors that the racket the whole neighborhood had heard a few nights in a row was caused by blown mufflers on a rented auxiliary generator that they had to use during a “wiring problem”. In all, the restoration crew kept the actual condition of the Enola Gay secret for over ten years.

Exxon Mobil and AeroShell will sponsor the national tour. Exxon has donated all of the fuel and AeroShell will donate the oil, and Enola Gay will need lots of both. "We're proud to be able to give America one more chance to see this flying piece of history," Dailey said. "If it wasn't for this airplane, America might not be the country she is today."

Itinerary:

  • Andrews Air Force Base in DC
  • Philadelphia, PA
  • Richmond, VA
  • Indianapolis, IN         
  • Lawrence, KS.
  • Ft. Leavenworth, KS
  • Omaha, NE
  • Odessa, TX
  • Longmont, CO           
  • Salt Lake City, UT
  • Davis/Woodland/ Winters, CA          
  • Astoria, OR    
  • Yakima, WA

FMI: www.enolagaytour2010.aero


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