Just a few days ago, a Wichita group trying to get its B-29 Superfortress known as “Doc” back in the air was struggling to reach even half of its $137,500 Kickstarter fundraising campaign goal.
As of Thursday afternoon, that all changed for Doc’s Friends, the group that owns and is restoring what would be only the second airworthy B-29 in the world.
Not only did the group achieve its Kickstarter goal, it surpassed it by thousands of dollars. Late Thursday afternoon, 777 people had committed to donate $140,516 to the fundraising campaign – a $3,016 bonus.
They hope to have the bomber back in the air before the end of the year.
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“We are so excited to have reached, instead of a goal let’s call it a threshold,” Jeff Turner, chairman of Doc’s Friends and retired Spirit AeroSystems CEO, said Thursday. “It’s so exciting to have the airplane getting closer and closer to first flight.”
Turner said the excitement comes from knowing that since the campaign reached its Kickstarter goal, Doc’s Friends will get its money. Kickstarter’s policy is if a crowdfunding campaign on its website doesn’t reach its stated goal, the group seeking the money doesn’t get a dime. Those who pledge donations only pay if the campaign reaches its goal within the time period of the campaign.
In Doc’s case, it is a 30-day campaign launched Sept. 29 and set to end Oct. 29.
But Turner and other Doc’s Friends officials are concerned that since the campaign has reached its goal, donations will tail off.
And Doc’s Friends can use any surplus funds raised between now and next Thursday.
Turner said the group thinks it can get by with the $137,500 and achieve its stated goal of getting a certificate of airworthiness and making the World War II bomber’s first flight sometime before the end of the year. That goal, however, doesn’t account for the unknowns that may crop up during the certification process and preparation for first flight, such as mechanical issues.
Turner also said the board didn’t want to set too high of a fundraising goal, either, knowing that the only way it was going to get the money through Kickstarter was by reaching its stated goal.
“We think we have enough (with the $137,500) to get Doc in the air,” Turner said. “We would still love to be significantly oversubscribed.”
The group estimates its expenses to get through the first flight will include $70,000 in fuel and oil, $50,000 in insurance and $10,000 in maintenance.
“We still have seven days left,” said Tom Bertels, a board member of the nonprofit Doc’s Friends and managing partner of advertising firm Sullivan, Higdon & Sink. “Anything we get over and above what our goal is is going to be put to good use.”
Bertels said in spite of the caution, it was still a thrill for the group to receive an e-mail from Kickstarter at 2:18 p.m. on Thursday confirming the fundraising goal was met.
“I think that people like to be a part of something that is important and historical and going to last … a pure-of-heart type of initiative,” he said.
Tony Mazzolini rescued Doc from a Navy bombing range in the Mojave desert in California in 1987. In 2000, he had pieces of Doc trucked to the former Boeing Wichita for restoration by a cadre of volunteers, including some who had originally worked on the B-29 production line.
Boeing’s Wichita plant turned out 1,644 of the airplanes – best known as the bomber type that dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, ending World War II in the Pacific.
Donations for Doc
People who want to donate money to Doc’s first flight but not through Kickstarter can do so by mailing a check to:
PO Box 771089
Wichita, KS 67277