The Boeing B-29 Superfortress known as ‘Doc’ is in the final days of her restoration. There are just a few minor details to finish with the avionics installation, and setting the limits for the flaps and gear doors, but other than that the old girl is ready to go. The restoration team in Wichita, Kansas had hoped to have her flying in 2014, but they ran into delays with the fuel system. Fuel management on a B-29 is extremely complex for a WWII bomber, having many different fuel tanks, hoses and pumps to deal with, to say nothing about the wiring, and valves required. Making sure that all of the components were working properly and, most importantly, that no leaks nor possibility of electrical shorts were on the cards, has been an intense process. The team took the time to ensure all the elements in the system passed their rigorous checks. The only thing delaying the first flight now is apparently cold weather. The engine oil needs to be at least 50F to ensure proper lubrication for engine start, and the team doesn’t have access to portable heaters to do the job. They expect to be able to run the aircraft outside in late March for fueling and engine testing. They will also hold a roll-out ceremony at this point. So many people have poured so much love and care into the old bomber, not to mention dollars, that there is much to celebrate. Taxi tests will follow.
The pilot for the first flight is an FAA-approved B-29 pilot with over 2,000 hours B-29 flight time (in the Commemorative Air Force’s B-29 ‘FIFI’). He is currently assembling his crew for the test flights. When Doc flies sometime in April or May, it will represent a major milestone in the era of warbird restoration, being arguably by far the most complex and thorough aircraft restoration ever undertaken (other than the Avro Vulcan in the UK).
All being well, ‘Doc’ will participate in EAA AirVenture 2015. The EAA hope to fly her in formation with ‘FIFI’, which will make for an awesome sight and sound, and sure to be a huge draw for the public. While ‘Doc’ is expected to keep Wichita, Kansas as her home, the operators are looking for an airfield which offers better access for the public, as well as a crosswind capable runway. The B-29 is difficult to handle in a crosswind, due in part to the lack of nose wheel steering, and this makes having an alternate runway advantageous. Her currently available runways at McConnell AFB both run parallel to one another, which will mean that the B-29 could only fly comfortably on relatively calm days, or when the wind ran mostly in line with the runway. Nearby Wichita Mid-Continent Airport does have angularly offset runways though, making it very attractive as a potential new home for ‘Doc’. The plan would require US$4 to $5Million for building a new hangar of course, but this should be achievable, and would present a much easier way for visitors to see the aircraft or fly in her. Those wishing to contribute to ‘Doc’s’ future should visit Doc’s Friends HERE.