The B-29 Bomber known as Doc has moved under its own power for the first time in decades.
Volunteers restoring the Wichita-built, World War II aircraft conducted the first test of Doc’s brakes and ability to turn during a test, about 45 minutes long, on Wednesday at Air Capital Flight Line, formerly Boeing Wichita, on South Oliver.
“They report that it handled perfectly,” said Josh Wells, spokesman for Doc’s Friends, the nonprofit group that owns and is restoring the Boeing airplane.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Wells said Doc traveled at a speed of about 8 to 10 miles per hour from north to south and back again on Air Capital’s ramp during the low-speed taxi test that was witnessed by about a dozen volunteers.
“When it first moved 6 inches, those guys were … unbelievably proud,” Wells said Thursday, adding that there were “a lot of hugs, a lot of tears.”
Wells said the group of witnesses to the event was kept small because of safety and security reasons.
Volunteers also only used two of Doc’s four, 3,600-horsepower engines to move the airplane. “Doc only needed enough power to roll slowly,” Wells said.
Wednesday’s test is another milestone for the airplane that came to Wichita in pieces from a naval bombing range in the California desert in 2000.
It also is one more thing volunteers can check off as they await an airworthiness certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration. That certificate is needed before Doc can make its first flight, the date of which remains undetermined but could happen this summer.
Wells said the group will notify the public when it has a firm date set for Doc’s first flight.
Doc was originally part of a squadron of B-29s known as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. It was delivered to the Army Air Forces on March 23, 1945, and was operated until 1956, at which point Doc became a target on the China Lake Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons range in the Mojave desert.
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.