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Tom Cleaver
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Playing hookey from writing on a Thursday

March 20, 2015 · in Show Reports · · 18 · 1.8K

"Fi-Fi," the only flying in the world (until "Doc"flies sometime this summer) is currently over at Van Nuys Airport thru Sunday. So I played hookey from writing the new book today and went over to see her. Hadn't been near her since she and I were both working on "the Right Stuff" back in 1983.

Managed to climb into the cockpit without crying, unlike 62 years ago when my Cub Scout Den got taken out to Lowry AFB in Denver by one boy's dad who flew these things then. At age 8, crawling up through the nose wheel well was scary. The B-29 reminds me of being on the USS "Iowa". They're both big, but they both have very limited crew spaces, around the weapon system.

I've discovered that (for me) one of the good things about the Big Move is that the new house is under the right turn departure pattern from Runway 16-right at VNY, 2 miles away. Herself, not an airplane fan (but fortunately an airplane tolerator) laughs to see me come running out of the writing office, across the living room and out the front door when my ears detect interesting (old) airplane noises overhead (VNY is home base to the Condor Squadron of 8 T-6s for the past 50 years, and numerous other warbirds). This weekend, "Fi-Fi" will fly three times each on Saturday and Sunday, and my back yard should be perfect viewing for seeing her come overhead about 600-800 ft. Gonna get over there early Saturday to photograph cranking up and taxying out and taking off for the 0900 flight, which further photos I will post.

Hmm... those two B-29 kits, with their Terry Dean noseweights and one with the Terry Dean Silverplate modification set, and their Cutting Edge and Micro-Scale decals, that have been eyeballing me with a "you ready?" look the past 15 years, may have just moved further up the to-do pile once the Future Site of TMCIndustries LLC has dug itself out from under and gotten into production.

Reader reactions:
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21 additional images. Click to enlarge.

18 responses

  1. Amazing set of pics Tom, they clear up the panel line question very well ,ie there are none so if I were building another 1/48 B29 I would sand them down to nothing also the weighted resin wheels I used were (as I suspected ) way to exagerated as the wheels on Fifi appear quite round and not flatter at the bottom.
    Thanks for showing N.

    • There actually are panel lines, but they are very fine, and any photo of an unpainted B-29 shows the airplane used different kinds of aluminum with differing tonal qualities. The kit should definitely be sanded smooth and rescribed and then polished before painting. Interestingly enough, there are raised rivets around all the observer bubbles.

  2. Got some pretty nice photos there, Tom...I got to see her a couple years back here in Daytona Beach - I didn't get to go inside, though.

  3. Very interesting, Tom. And certainly not many seen on modelling tables these days either.

  4. Awesome photos Tom! Won't mind standing next to FIFI myself. Thanks for the great photos!

  5. Some lovely shots of the inside Tom.
    Thanks for posting, I hope you enjoyed the experience.

  6. Hello Tom...Thanks for the fine detail shots of 'FiFi' and it looks like you had the grand tour. I look forward to the action shots when she cranks up. I've seen her here in Charlotte years ago but only on static display.

  7. Tom, are there any wires visible on the rears of the pilots and copilots instrument panels? With that wide open nose, I figure it oughta show up, though I'd probably go with creative gizmology. I don't have the Kinzey book, and I don't recall if I've ever seen anything taken inside, looking aft toward the pilots/copilots positions.
    I've got one in the pending pile, too. It calls my name occaisionally.

    • In the cockpit tour, you couldn't go forward of the flight engineer's position right behind the pilot's seats. Looking in the nose from outside, you couldn't see any wires, it looks like those instrument stacks have the back closed up.

  8. FiFi appears to be painted, not NMF. True?
    I "have one" as well, but being on a "size diet" due to my housing situation, she'll have to wait. No temptation at all.

  9. Thanks a lot for sharing, great pics and it must have been awesome experience. I'll see one too... if I build it in scale 😉 You lucky guy 🙂

  10. Great images, thanks for sharing - I look forward to your next ones of Fifi.
    What a mind boggling thing. I hope she visits my part of the world someday.

    • Sounds like Tom's got a bird's-eye view all right. I've got a CD somewhere that documents the history and current activity around that airport. A 'must-have' for any aviation enthusiast.

  11. Tom,
    Great write up as usual. Outstanding photos.

  12. Oh well, no operating photos, since she didn't operate according to schedule yesterday and likely won't today (and I have other things I have to work on today). The weather changed after Friday, with the high pressure moving east and taking the clear skies with it, replaced by a marine low, with morning marine layer accompanied with haze all day. Yesterday it didn't "clea" till 10am, and it was VFR straight up, and IFR horizontally, till mid-afternoon. I went home after waiting four hours, and the one flight I did catch was her returning to the airport, coming overhead from the south, so she didn't fly the pattern I'd expected. Maybe I'll get lucky this afternoon.

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