If all goes according to plan Friday, the Boeing B-29 Superfortress known as “Doc” will run its engines for the first time since 1956.
That’s the day volunteers in the 15-year-long restoration effort of the historic airplane will fire up all four of the Wichita-built bomber’s new radial engines, putting it closer to first flight.
“To hear the engines and be able to see Doc roar back to life is going to be a great moment,” said Jim Murphy, restoration program manager for Doc’s Friends, the nonprofit group that owns the airplane and is leading its restoration.
The milestone event won’t be open to the public. But Doc’s Friends will livestream the engine start at 8 a.m. Friday on its website, www.b-29doc.com.
The engine start follows the roll-out of the airplane in March.
Murphy said Wednesday that a “countless number of things” had to be done to prepare for Friday’s engine start, including installing fire shields, a custom exhaust system and 36 spark plugs in each of Doc’s four engines.
On Friday, volunteers will first start each engine individually, checking for things such as engine temperature and oil pressure.
Then “if all goes well, which we think it will, we’ll start all four engines at the same time,” Murphy said.
He said Friday will be the first time any of the engines have been started after being attached to the airplane. He said they were started individually on test stands after they were delivered. He said Doc’s Friends received the first of the four engines starting about two years ago.
The engines are a hybrid of the 3350-57 engines that were originally on Doc. The new engines are a combination of the 3350-57 and the engine used on the Douglas A-1 Skyraider single-seat attack airplane.
Doc’s new engines were manufactured by Idaho-based Anderson Aeromotive.
Doc was originally part of a squadron of B-29s known as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. It was plucked from California’s Mojave desert in 1987 by Tony Mazzolini, where Doc sat for more than 30 years as a target on the China Lake Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons range.
In 2000, Mazzolini had Doc trucked to Wichita for restoration. The restoration effort was put on hiatus for a few years because of a lack of hangar space and a poor economy.
A group of business leaders and aviation enthusiasts formed Doc’s Friends and acquired the B-29 from Mazzolini in 2013. The following year restoration was restarted.
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.
Some of the volunteers who have worked on Doc’s restoration worked on the original B-29 line at Boeing in Wichita, or had served as crew members. Others are former or active employees of Spirit AeroSystems.
“We’ve got volunteers that have been on this since the airplane got here in 2000,” Murphy said. “The men and women, they’ve dedicated their lives and retirement to make this happen.
“Next to the first flight of the airplane, they’ve been looking forward to this (engine start) for 15 years.”