After 15 years and about 300,000 hours of volunteer labor, the B-29 known as “Doc” rolled out of the hangar in Wichita on Monday, greeted by about 300 friends and a band. “Many of us, especially our dedicated volunteers, have waited a very long time to see this day because it means Doc is that much closer to being ready to fly again,” said Jeff Turner, chairman of Doc’s Friends, the nonprofit group that has funded the restoration. “Doesn’t the aircraft look great? Can you imagine how much better Doc will look when it’s back in the air?” The group says it needs to raise about $9 million more to complete the restoration, get Doc flying, and create a permanent home for the airplane.
Doc was built 70 years ago, in Wichita, and joined a squadron of eight World War II-era B-29s named for Snow White and the seven dwarfs. The airplane was decommissioned in 1956 and parked in the Mojave Desert, in southern California, where it served as a ballistic target on a weapons range. Aviation enthusiast Tony Mazzolini found it there in 1987, and began the restoration effort. “Even back then, there weren’t many of these beauties left,” said Mazzolini at Monday’s event. “Saving it from that situation in the desert was one thing, but the dream was always to restore Doc to flying condition and turn it into a flying museum to help keep the memories alive. That’s why we brought it to back to Wichita.” Only one other B-29, Fifi, is still flying.