Aviation

You can see Wichita’s restored B-29 bomber ‘Doc’ in its hangar this weekend

Restored B-29 ‘Doc’ finally has a permanent home of its own in Wichita

(Nov. 13, 2018) The B-29 "Doc," originally built in Wichita in 1944, and restored to its former glory over a 16-year span starting in 2000, was parked in a new hangar built exclusively for it, for the first time on Tuesday.
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(Nov. 13, 2018) The B-29 "Doc," originally built in Wichita in 1944, and restored to its former glory over a 16-year span starting in 2000, was parked in a new hangar built exclusively for it, for the first time on Tuesday.

You can get an up close look at the restored World War II B-29 bomber known as “Doc” in its home this weekend.

The B-29 Doc Hangar and Education Center, where the bomber is now housed, is hosting a public open house and dedication ceremony from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday. The 32,000-square-foot, $6.5 million interactive facility is located at Eisenhower National Airport along the 1700 block of South Airport Road.

Doors open at 9 a.m. The dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony starts at 10.

The cost is $10 per person, or $20 per family. The fees will help pay for Doc’s new home, Josh Wells, spokesman for Doc’s Friends, the nonprofit board managing the bomber’s operation, said.

“It’s breathtaking,” Wells said of the facility. “We’re excited to share that with the public this weekend. ... We want people to get up close and personal and hug the plane, if they want.”

On Saturday, visitors will get the chance to buy Doc merchandise, tour the warbird’s cockpit and watch technicians maintain the plane. They’ll also see artifacts linked to WWII and Doc’s 16-year restoration.

It’s the first time the public will have a chance to be inside of the hangar. And it may be the only time until the facility opens for regular hours, Wells said. That’s expected sometime around the first of March.

Wells said Doc’s Friends is still putting together a plan to operate the facility with volunteer staff, so he isn’t sure yet exactly what days and times it will be open. But, he said, it will probably be three or four weekdays and either Saturday or Sunday each week.

“I’m excited because it’s an opportunity for Wichita to own the right to say it’s the Air Capital of the world,” Wells said about Saturday’s open house. “This is a premier facility. It is a public facility. And it is a facility that we can be proud of.”

Doc is a decommissioned Boeing B-29 Superfortress and one of 1,644 manufactured in Wichita during WWII. It took more than 100 volunteers around 450,000 hours to make it fly again. Discovered rotting in the Mojave Desert in 1987, it is one of just two operational B-29s in existence.

It’s first flight since being restored was on July 17, 2016. Construction on the hangar and education center began just over a year later. The plane was parked in the hangar for the first time in November and is having winter maintenance performed on it now, Wells said.

According to Doc’s Friends’ website, $500,000 is still needed to cover the project’s construction and design costs and to launch the educational component of the facility, which Wells said would be running by March. The nonprofit group also plans to approach school districts about organizing field trips for students to see “Doc” and use the education center starting next school year, Well said.

“We don’t want it to be just your standard museum. We want it to be a hands-on learning experience,” he said.

Doc’s Friends is also seeking volunteers to help care for Doc and run the facility. For more information about how to get involved, the plane’s history and fundraising efforts, go to www.b29doc.com.

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Amy Renee Leiker has been reporting for The Wichita Eagle since 2010. She covers crime, courts and breaking news and updates the newspaper’s online databases. You can reach her at 316-268-6644. She’s an avid reader and mom of three in her non-work time.

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