Meeting of 3/9/17: ‘A Ride Into History on a B-29’

screen-shot-2016-10-16-at-7-10-54-pmMeeting at Quigley’s Restaurant
593 Columbia Turnpike
East Greenbush, NY
March 9, 2017

Members Attending (21): Debbie Rodriguez, Roberto Martinez, Murray Forth, Pat Bailey, Bill Dowd, Jim Leyhane, Andy Leyhane, Ron Annis, April Dowd, Julius Frankel, Phil Kellerman, Dick Drumm, Terry Brewer, Debbie Brown, Peter Brown, Carol Orvis, Charlie Foote, Ray Hannan, Monika Annis, Doris Calamaras, Dean Calamaras.

Guests: None.

PROGRAM:  “A Ride Into History on a B-29”

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“Fifi,” one of only two airworthy B-29s still in existence.
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Jim Leyhane before boarding.

Club member Jim Leyhane, who had a ride on a B-29 aircraft bomber on his “bucket list,” presented a talk and slideshow on a round-trip flight he took from Albany  International Airport that fulfilled that wish.

Jim had a very personal reason for wanting the trip. His father was a cadet trainee as a B-29 crew member in the waning days of World War II and did not get to fly in action. But, when the Korean War broke out he was recalled to the military and served in the role he had been training for some years earlier — as a flight engineer on the crew of a B-29 its crew named “Fifi” — the very plane Jim flew on.

“Fifi” is owned and operated by the Commemorative Air Force, a volunteer organization chartered on September 6, 1961, as a nonprofit Texas corporation dedicated to the restoration and preservation of World War II-era combat aircraft. “Fifi” is one of only two of the approximately 3,900 B-29’s manufactured that still is flying. The planes were designed in 1939 and put into action in 1942, at a cost of $639,000 each.

Jim described the emotions of the flight that looped from the airport in Colonie across western Massachusetts, southern Vermont and Lake George then back to Colonie. And, he said the flight changed his preconceptions that it would be very noisy,  bumpy, and uncomfortable. Conversely, he said, it was relatively smooth at 200 mph and 2,000 feet of elevation. He said only the front and rear of the plane are pressurized because the bomb storage and bomb bays are in the middle.

During World War II, the bulk of the B-29’s were based in the Mariana Islands southeast of Japan. (Today, the Marianas are divided into the U.S. territory of Guam and the U.S. Commonwealth of Northern Marianas.) They flew numerous missions to bomb the Japanese mainland, usually escorted by P-58 Mustang fighter planes. For most of each mission they could fly higher than the Japanese planes were capable of doing, but had to descend to drop their bombs. Losses were heavy, but more planes went down from fires and mechanical problems than from enemy weapons.

Although “Fifi” now has newer Pratt & Whitney engines, it retains much of the original equipment to lend authenticity. In a nod to modern technology, rather than a cumbersome navigational system the “Fifi” crew uses an iPhone and Google that serve just as well or better. In another technological change, Jim pointed out that today’s cameras are so fast that in the videos and still shots used in his presentation the propellers do not appear to  be moving.

In a nice touch to the adventure, Jim said that he paid $1,200 for the flight but later was informed that $990 was tax deductible which, he said, “let me pay for something else on my bucket list.”

Business & Announcements

Screen shot 2017-03-10 at 12.08.33 PMRONALD McDONALD HOUSE MEALS — Roberto Martinez has scheduled the club to cook a dinner at Ronald McDonald House on Wednesday, May 31. A crew of six is needed for the effort, and we already have three. Anyone who can commit is asked to contact Bill or April Dowd. Roberto said he hopes to bring up at next week’s Third Thursday Breakfast Meeting the possibility of also cooking breakfast at RMH. Terry Brewer already has volunteered to chair such an effort.

SIMULATOR GOLF EVENT — Our Indoor Simulator Golf Tournament is scheduled for this Saturday at Burden Lake Country Club. Two team slots remain available. Anyone interested is asked to contact Murray Forth or Terry Brewer ASAP.

AREA 8 PROJECT — Jack Faddegon, Assistant District Governor for Area 8 of which SRC is a member, is putting together a joint work project for Sunday, May 20, at the Shaker Heritage Society near Albany International Airport. Potential chores include creating a stone fence, installing a new sign, plating flowers, cutting weeds, etc. A picnic lunch would be provided. Debbie Rodriguez said the thought is that six members from each club — SRC, Cohoes, Colonie-Guilderland and Lansingburgh — would create a sufficient group. She said she will share details as they are received so we can ascertain whether we will participate and, if so, line up our volunteers.

src-easter-basket-driveEASTER BASKET PROJECT —Today was the first dropoff date for donations to our Circles 0f Mercy Easter basket project. Remaining dropoff dates are next week’s (March 16) breakfast and dinner meetings and the dinner meetings of March 23 and 30. A shopping list of needed items was emailed earlier to all members and also is available on the club website. Columbia High School is running a parallel effort and has been provided with 20 baskets plus clear wrap and plastic grass materials. Len Leonidas’ Scouts will use the club’s donations to assemble and deliver a separate collection of baskets to Circles of Mercy.

POLIO DOCUMENTARY VIDEO —Roberto reported on the progress of the polio education video that began shooting this week. Click here for details.

SAVE THE DATES — Our second recycling/shredding day will be held at Wainschaf Associates on Saturday, April 29. … The District Conference will be held in Lake George on Friday, May 5, through Sunday, May 7. Registration details are available on the District website.

screen-shot-2017-02-14-at-8-22-18-pmROTARY HOME COOKING — Terry Brewer has asked for a headcount ASAP for everyone who plans to attend “A Rotary Cocktail Party” at his residence from 4 to 7 p.m. Saturday, March 25. Rotarians and family are welcome. Drinks and hors d’oeuvres will be served. Cost is $10 per person. … “An Agave Experience,” a guided tasting of tequilas and Mexican-inspired tapas, will be hosted by the Dowds at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, April 8, at $35 per person. They currently have four seats remaining.

TWO MEETINGS NEXT WEEK: Jeff Simons, the new superintendent of the East Greenbush Central School District, will speak on the upcoming capital budget referendum at the 7 a.m. Third Thursday breakfast meeting at the Greenbush YMCA. Then, at the 6:15 p.m. dinner meeting at Quigley’s, Sarah Stangl of the Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island will speak on refugee resettlement in the U.S.

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