Commemorative Air Force B-29 & LB-30
Visit SPI (Capital Airport, Springfield, Illinois)
August 11 -- 17, 2003, the Commemorative Air Force B-29 and LB-30 visited Springfield's Capital Airport. When I (earnest webmeister) introduced myself to the PR liaison and explained my interest in photographing the two aircraft and sharing pictures at AeroKnow, I was informed that as long as I wanted to take snapshots for passing around among friends, I could take as many as I liked, but I did not have permission to photograph for AeroKnow. The reason for this is because many photographers have made money from the hard work of the Commemorative Air Force's volunteers, and this was no longer acceptable. The PR person gave me the name and number of the person to call, and I gave Midland, TX a ring. When talked, after she had visited AeroKnow on the web, she and the comptroller explained their only concern was that I might offer pictures I took during this year's visit for sale. Otherwise, they had no problem with my taking pictures.
Like any other aviation enthusiast, I was happy to pay to visit inside these aircraft, and was amazed by the behavior of some people who resented the additional charge after paying $5 to walk out onto the ramp and get close to them. More about this following the pictures.
CAUTION: if some of these images appear to be distorted, consider cutting back on the coffee and supporting the Commemorative Air Force. If and when we arrange an exchange of links, we will post a link to their web site here.
Click on any thumbnail for a larger image and BACK to return to the smaller size.
Many thanks to Springfield FBO First Class Air for sponsoring the viait by these two
aircraft which parked on part of their very spacious ramp during the week's visit.
The airplanes were easy to see from the parking lot, and nobody who wanted to see them from the fence had to pay a penny. I considered the $5 charge to go inside the fence reasonable. Normal people pay double that to see a movie in a theater which -- if they wait a year -- they can see for a dollar or two in their own home -- so the admission charge plus another $5 to visit the front of the 29 and $3 to visit the cabin and cockpit of the LB were okay with me. At first, I considered that my credentials as a journalist/photographer were free admission, but as a citizen, after thinking about it, I was happy to support the enterprise that brought these airplanes to my back yard.
Not everyone shared my appreciation. I witnessed a gentleman who looked as though he might have served in the CBI or SoPac start up the ladder to the B-29 cabin. The CAF volunteers are pretty attentive to visitors taking too much for granted, and they reminded him of the charge, asking him as he crouched under the nose wheel door is he had paid his admission. He said, "I paid at the gate." The volunteer reminded him that to go inside involved another $5 charge, and the visitor, who by then was a step or two up the ladder, came down with a frown on his face unlike anything I have seen since I watched a friend eat his first raw oyster, and exited the area. I ALMOST asked the fellow if he had served, and if he had, I was ready to fork over another fiver. But when he came down mad rather than disappointed, I decided to save my money. Another friend, involved with special events management pointed out it's only $8 to attend the local air show. When I pointed out that a central Illinois aviation museum charged $2 to enter the cabin of their DC-3 and the 29 and 30 were more exotic birds than the Gooney, my friend recognized my point but refused to tour the Boeing after visiting the Consolidated. Not one of the volunteers I walked with were the slightest bit resentful or combative when people turned up their noses and expressed disappointment over nickles and dimes. Every volunteer I spoke with was more knowledgeable about the airplanes than I expected them to be, and I even learned a few things. Suprise, surprise!
Though I can't afford the $200 initial membership fee to become a member of the CAF, I sure can afford the admission prices, and I understand the need for them to set up a gift shop under a large tent to see souvenirs. They had a book on Tinian in 1945 and today that I HAD to have. Also bought some postcards for the collection and to trade.
For years, the Commemorative Air Force (formerly the Confederate Air Force until too many sociologists decided that freedom of speech was too highly rated and that Americans would benefit more from less of it) has done what just a few financially blessed individuals have done: keep rare, historically significant airplanes flying and shared with the public at large. In the past 20 years or so, the organization has even paid more attention to painting and marking their aircraft in authentic colors. Decades of asking the American public to support their efforts by voluntarily donating what they could when these airplanes have appeared at airports all across the USA proved that "asking" the typical aviation enthusiast or World Wrestling Federation aficionado for money will ground airplanes with empty fuel tanks and broken bits that need repair. So when the CAF asks me for $5 to tour their B-29, I'll eat Pringles for lunch twice a week and gladly fork over the bucks. Nobody else in the WORLD is doing what these men and women are doing as well as they are doing it. I probably have more money lost in my sofa than I paid to see these airplanes. I am lucky to be able to have the organization visit central Illinois. And the next time they come -- any one of their squadrons, flying any authentically finished warbird (don't get me started about "Aluminum Overcast"!) you can bet I'll get in line to see them close up. I hope you will too!
Kudos to CAF and sponsors of the visit for a mission well accomplished!
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