By David Fleet
Ypsilanti —Loud and slow.
That’s how Groveland Township resident David Newbill described his ride in the bombardier seat of a World War II B-29 Superfortress. The journey was on Aug. 13 at Willow Run Airport at the Thunder Over Michigan Airshow. The B-29 named “Fifi” is part of the Squadron of the Commemorative Air Force that provides rides in vintage aircraft..
“I was in the plane for just about two hours,” said Newbill. “The seat was surrounded by glass and it was very hot. My father flew in the co-pilot seat just to my right, for 39 missions each lasting about 12-16 hours on bombing runs across the Pacific Ocean to the Japan mainland. The ride in the B-29 was amazing for me, but my dad Robert Newbill, was just 26 years old, half-way around the world and was not certain if the mission was his last.”
Newbill’s ride, a gift from his son Jeff, was in remembrance of his father, who enlisted in 1943 and served in the Army Air Corps as a First Lieutenant. He was a co-pilot on some of the first B-29’s ever to fly missions in WWII. The squadrons were stationed on the island of Saipan in the Northern Mariana Islands about 1,500 miles southeast of Japan.
“Fifi,’ flew mission during WWII was rescued from missile target practice in the 1970s. The B-29 flew for 30 years and was grounded in 2006. The plane’s engines and hydraulics were completely rebuilt. In 2010 ‘Fifi’ returned to the air and continues to tour the country.
By David Fleet