Less than a year after its first flight, the recently restored B-29 Superfortress named “Doc” made its much-anticipated public debut at the Defenders of Liberty Air Show in Barksdale, Louisiana May 5 through 7. This was the first stop on its tour, with at least four more expected in 2017 (EAA AirVenture included).
The warbird’s presence at Barksdale Air Force Base was especially significant as it was the B-29’s first assigned base after being built in Wichita in 1945.
“To be able to fly Doc back to where it was originally assigned was incredible,” said Josh Wells, spokesperson for Doc’s Friends, the nonprofit organization managing the B-29. “Not only was the local community excited, but we talked to people from Texas, Missouri, Arkansas, even Canada. It was clear droves of people were there to see the restoration they have been following online for so many years.”
The weekend saw record-breaking attendance, with more than 170,000 aviation enthusiasts assembling at the base, several thousand actually being turned away from the free event due to capacity concerns by show officials. Other attractions included performances by the U.S. Navy Blue Angels, aerobatic pilot Michael Goulian and a sizable collection of military aircraft.
During the show, Doc participated in a series of flights including a Boeing heritage flight displaying a B-17 Flying Fortress, B-25 Mitchell, B-29 Superfortress (Doc) and B-52 Stratofortress in formation. The crew says the airplane performed beautifully. An impressive feat considering the warbird’s first flight in 60 years took place in July of last year following its extensive 16-year restoration.
Later this month, Doc is expected to arrive at EAA AirVenture Friday, July 21, and remain the length of the show. A number of flights will occur over the course of the week, but certainly one of the main events will be the opportunity for Doc to share the sky with FIFI – the world’s only other flying B-29, operated by the Commemorative Air Force (CAF).
“No one since 1956 has seen two B-29’s fly in formation,” said Jim Murphy, project manager for Doc’s Friends. “It will be very emotional.”
Between flights, Doc will be on static display in the Boeing Centennial Plaza where Doc’s Friends will be selling cockpit tours, photos and merchandise. All proceeds go directly toward helping cover the airplane’s operating and touring expenses.
Doc’s Friends continues to also raise funds for a permanent hangar, to be based at Wichita’s Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport. The budgeted goal is $6.5 million, and the group is reportedly halfway to obtaining that amount. The structure will serve as both an active hangar and a hands-on learning center, currently dubbed the “B-29 Doc Education Center.”
“We want the public to be able to come in and see, touch and feel the technology and engineering that went into building this airplane,” said Wells. “The purpose of this project has always been to connect generations and help keep the memories alive.”
Currently, Doc is being operated by crew from the only other flying B-29, FIFI. The crew made several trips to Wichita over the last year to work closely with Doc’s Friends restoration team leading up to the tour. But soon, a local Wichita-based crew will be trained and certified to operate the airplane independently – allowing for easier operation as the touring schedule magnifies in coming years.
It is projected rides on B-29 Doc will be available for sale in 2018. Doc’s Friends is already working with the FAA on the paperwork and requirements to achieve the appropriate certification and insurance to carry passengers.
If you would like to support Doc’s mission and ensure it stays in the air, here are ways you can help:
Donate directly — via the Doc’s Friends website (Paypal) or mail (P.O. Box 771089, Wichita, KS 67277).
Purchase Doc merchandise — shirts, hats, first flight memorabilia and more are available online via Yingling Aviation’s gift shop, Aviator’s Attic.
To stay up to date on all Doc news, subscribe online at b-29doc.com or follow Doc on Facebook (facebook.com/docsfriends) and Twitter (twitter.com/docsfriends).