A vintage B-29 has been given a new lease on life by a group of Wichita, Kansas, business leaders who are determined to see the airplane restored to flying condition. A new non-profit group, Doc’s Friends, has taken ownership of the airplane and will support the effort to refurbish the vintage airplane. It is believed that Doc is the last known Boeing B-29 Superfortress that is restorable to flying condition.
Doc rolled off the final assembly line in 1944 and was delivered to the United State Army Air Forces in March of 1945. The bomber’s career included overseas missions and a stint as a member of a radar calibration squadron in New York. The plane was rescued from the California desert in 1998 and brought to Wichita in 2000 by aviation enthusiast Tony Mazzolini and a host of dedicated volunteers. Mazzolini and the volunteers made great strides restoring the aircraft before efforts stalled due to poor economic conditions and available hangar space.
Doc was one of 1,644 B-29 Superfortress bombers built at Boeing Wichita’s Plant II. At the height of production in 1944, there were more than 29,000 Boeing Wichita employees and about 45 percent were women. Those employees rolled out three and a half B-29s every day from a plant that operated around the clock.
Doc’s Friends, a group of Wichita aviation enthusiasts, was recently formed to help make Mazzolini’s dream of a flying museum come true. The board is chaired by Jeff Turner; other members include Charlie Chandler, Jack Pelton, Steve Clark, Lynn Nichols, Brad Gorsuch, Vic McMullen, and Ron Ryan. The airplane was recently moved from a storage hangar to active hangar space donated by Boeing, which will allow volunteers to resume work to restore the aircraft.
“This airplane is a national treasure,” said Turner. “We will not rest until we raise enough funds to restore Doc, find a permanent home, and operate Doc as a flying museum for the world to see.”
Prior to this restoration project, Doc was sitting in the Mojave Desert near China Lake, Calif. where it was planned to be used for ballistic testing (target practice). During World War II, this airplane was one of a squadron of eight airplanes named for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. It was decommissioned in 1956 and spent forty-two years in the desert before Mazzolini took on a personal mission to recover the airplane and then move it to Wichita for restoration.
“The effort to restore Doc to a flyable aircraft has been on hold for several years. Now, Doc’s Friends is committed to returning Doc to the skies where he first flew back in 1944, Wichita, Kansas,” said Turner.
Doc’s Friends will begin recruiting additional volunteers and raising the needed funds to complete the restoration.
For more information and to donate to Doc’s restoration fund, visit www.b-29doc.com.
Did you know…
Some of the major advancements made in the design of the B-29 were:
- Pressurized crew compartment
- Fully electric with 100+ electric motors
- Computerized weapons system
- Remote-controlled guns
- Advanced radar for bombing and navigation
- Electronic fire suppression system