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The skies over southern Illinois rumbled with the sound of heavy bombers and other vintage aircraft when the Commemorative Air Force brought several of its most popular warbirds to Southern Illinois for a mid-summer series of aerial and static displays. The locally-organized Warbird Salute to Veterans held at the Southern Illinois Airport and the Williamson County Regional Airport showcased the mighty B-29 Superfortress FIFI, the B-24 Liberator Diamond Lil, and a host of other historic aircraft to the delight of thousands of area residents. The event is closely tied to SIU's nationally-ranked Aviation programs.
WSIU Producer Jak Tichenor talked with event organizer Charley Rodriguez, Emeritus Professor of Aviation Technologies, and CAF Colonel David Oliver, a 2006 graduate of the SIU Aviation Management and Flight Department, about the CAF's mission to preserve our country's antique warbird heritage for future generations. Former World War Two B-24 aircraft commanders Tom Engram of Carbondale and Clarence Copping of Palatine, Illinois shared their memories of flying B-24 Liberators in combat as they toured the CAF's B-24 named Diamond Lil.
Three SIU Aviation Technologies students, Jake Baldwin, Michael Szemplinski, and Kyle Householder, discussed their summer maintenance internships with the CAF as they helped keep the group's aircraft in shape for the summer airshow circuit.
Tichenor also took a memorable ride in the CAF's B-29 FIFI, the world's only airworthy Superfortress, during a flight from Carbondale to Marion. FIFI's pilot, CAF Colonel Neils Agather, discusses his family's role in preserving the B-29, which his father Vic rescued from a Navy gunnery range in 1971. The plane is named after Neils' mother.
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