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TIME TRAVELERS WWII PLANES RUMBLE THROUGH VALLEY SKIES.

Byline: Joseph Giordono Staff Writer

VAN NUYS - If you think today's commercial air travel is bad, consider the conditions facing crews of high-altitude bombers in World War II: temperatures 40 degrees below zero, 14-hour missions and the very real possibility that theirs would be a one-way ticket.

In a sneak preview Monday of Aviation Expo 2001 at Van Nuys Airport, media representatives hopped aboard the only working B-29 Superfortress and one of only three operating B-24 Liberator bombers. The exposition will be held on the weekend.

``If you think the heat, the noise and the rattling today were bad, imagine how it felt over enemy territory with someone trying to shoot you down,'' J.C. Brandt, co-pilot of the B-24 nicknamed Diamond Lil, told those who took a ride.

Both planes, flown and serviced by the Confederate Air Force, a group of aviation enthusiasts dedicated to the preservation of WWII aircraft, are in town for the free weekend show expected to attract more than 300,000 people. Aerial demonstrations by the U.S. Army's Golden Knights Parachute Team, the Condor Squadron AT-6 Texans and the Los Angeles Fire Department Helicopter Unit also will be featured in the two-day event, and there will be flyovers by the F/A-18, F6F Hellcat, MIG-15 and other aircraft.

But the star attraction will the vintage planes.

The B-29 Superfortress is the last of its kind capable of flight. Nicknamed Fifi, it was manufactured in 1945 and was on its way into service when the war ended.

Diamond Lil was manufactured in 1941, the 18th of about 19,000 B-24s made in the war years. The plane was intended to patrol for German submarines but was converted for VIP transportation after a training accident.

In 1946 it was purchased by the Continental Can Co. and turned into an executive aircraft. The Confederate Air Force purchased it almost two decades later, and the plane has since logged more than 15,000 miles on its original airframe.

``This is not just about preserving airplanes, but preserving the memory of what people did in them,'' said Keith Kibbe of the Confederate Air Force. According to Kibbe, the planes now log about 100 hours of flight time each year.

``Flying this one is a whole world of difference, but it sure is a lot of fun,'' Col. Jack Bradshaw of Dallas, an 80-year-old former fighter pilot, said about Diamond Lil.

Bradshaw, who flew with both the Royal Air Force and the U.S. Army Air Corp during World War II, spends eight to 10 weeks a year touring with and flying the B-24, and he will accompany it for a stop in Sacramento after the Van Nuys show.

Among those on the 45-minute flight Monday was August Eltz Jr. of Santa Clarita. Eltz won the flight when his daughter's Father's Day essay was chosen as a Daily News contest winner.

``It's a little strange knowing that these planes are almost as old as I am,'' said Eltz, who was born in 1938. ``But it was a lot of fun.''

CAPTION(S):

2 photos

Photo:

(1) Viewed from a B-24 Liberator, the last functioning B-29 Superfortress flies over the San Fernando Valley on Monday.

(2) Carl Lindou, pointing, and his son C.J. check out Diamond Lil, one of the last three B-24s that can still fly. The plane will fly in the Van Nuys air show this weekend.

John Kennedy/Special to the Daily News
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Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jun 19, 2001
Words:576
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