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Last of B-29s from WWII era is set to visit, even for rides, this week

The last of the World War II era B-29s, similar to the Boeing Superfortresses that dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, will be on display this week in Cheektowaga.

And -- for a price -- 30-minute flights over the Niagara Frontier will be available.

Peter C. Treichler, of East Aurora, an active member of the Commemorative Air Force Museum and a commercial airline pilot, said the Superfortress nicknamed Fifi will be open to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday at Prior Aviation Service, 50 N. Airport Drive, off Wehrle Drive, near Buffalo Niagara International Airport.

Fifi, a sister plane to the Enola Gay and Bock's Car that dropped the nuclear bombs leading to the Japanese surrender in August 1945, is expected to arrive today after a similar display at the New England Air Museum in Windsor Locks, Conn.

From here, it will go to the Canadian Warplane Heritage Airshow from Thursday through Sunday in Hamilton, Ont.

A P-51 fighter and other planes to commemorate the crews that flew them will be on display along with the B-29, the only plane of its class still in flying condition.

Admission to the display is $10 a person or $20 for a family.

Flights on the Fifi are a lot more expensive. They range from $595 for a seat in the tail gunner's compartment to $1,495 for the bombardier's seat in the nose of the plane, called the best seat in the house because it is out in front of the pilots and is surrounded by plexiglass.

Discounts are available by booking flight seats in advance on the organization's website: www.ride29.com.

Each flight can accommodate about 12 passengers and is open to people at least 14 years old who have enough mobility to board the plane without help; those ages 14 to 18 must have notarized letters of permission from their parents.

The B-29s were called Superfortresses because they succeeded the B-24 Liberators and B-17 Flying Fortresses. Treichler said the B-29s had the longest flying range and heaviest capacity of any bombers in World War II. The propeller-driven Superfortresses had four engines of 2,000 horsepower each, a 141-foot wingspan and a combat load of 130,000 pounds gross weight.

About 4,700 of them were manufactured, mostly for use in the Pacific against Japan.

Fifi has visited Western New York before, and the B-29 calls the Commemorative Air Force Museum home. The museum, headquartered in Midland, Texas, is the largest operator of World War II planes of various types and sizes, with a collection of more than 100 of them.

email: rbaldwin@buffnews.com