Military News

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Local community marks B-29 rollout

by Senior Airman Victor J. Caputo
22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

3/24/2015 - MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. -- One of over 1,600 B-29 Superfortresses assembled in Wichita, Kansas, was delivered to the Army Air Forces on March 23, 1944, and that very same aircraft was "delivered" again in commemoration of its restoration during a ceremony March 23, in Wichita.

"I was real thrilled for this," said retired Col. Charles Chauncey, a former B-29 pilot who flew 35 missions in World War II. "It looks good now. I'm so proud of all the people who put it back together. It's very majestic, and I'm thrilled to have been there to see it. I want to thank [the volunteers] for all they've done to put it back together. It was a great ceremony."

This B-29, known affectionately as "Doc" by the volunteers who restored it, sat in the Mojave Desert for decades after being decommissioned and serving as a ballistic target at a Navy weapons range. An aviation enthusiast discovered Doc 1987.

"Even back then, there weren't many of these beauties left," said Doc's "rescuer and champion," Tony Mazzolini. "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."

While the B-29 was never flown out of McConnell, the 22nd Bombardment Group flew the plane extensively in the Korean War before eventually transitioning into the 22nd Air Refueling Wing in 1982.

"McConnell Air Force Base is very lucky to have such caring neighbors with such enthusiasm for aviation history," said Col. James Dermer, 22nd ARW vice commander. "Our Airmen feel the support of the 'Air Capital of the World' every day in the communities where we live, work and play around Wichita. Doc is in great hands!"

Dozens of volunteers have spent the last 15 years getting the plane ready to fly again in Wichita. More than 300,000 hours have been spent on the restoration thanks to individuals from McConnell, Boeing Co., Spirit AeroSystems and many groups in and around Wichita.

"It is my distinct pleasure to be [here] today to honor both the legacy of our veterans and the tireless efforts of volunteers to preserve an important piece of history," said Larry Lawson, Spirit AeroSystems CEO and president. "Doc represents the sacrifices of 'the greatest generation,' to whom Americans owe their freedom."

Doc is expected to be fully air-worthy by summer 2015, and the cost of restoration is estimated to be between $7-9 million.

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