Doc’s flight draws onlookers from different points to city’s southside

Flocks of Wichitans gathered around different parts of the city’s southside on Sunday to watch the Boeing B-29 Superfortress known as “Doc” make its first flight after a more than decade-and-a-half restoration effort.

Groups of onlookers were concentrated at 47th South and Oliver and at McConnell Air Force Base to see Doc fly for the first time in 60 years. A crowd of nearly 200 people, mostly volunteers in Doc’s restoration, also gathered in a secured area at Air Capital Flight Line on South Oliver to watch the historic flight.

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Boeing’s Wichita plant churned out 1,644 of the airplanes during World War II. The B-29 is 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.

Doc, which served in a squadron named Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs from 1945 until 1956, came to Wichita in pieces on the back of semis in 2000 to what was then Boeing Wichita on South Oliver. The company made space available at the factory for the bomber’s restoration.

Tony Mazzolini, a former flight engineer who had been searching for a World War II-era airplane to restore, discovered Doc on a bombing range in California’s Mojave desert in 1987. He led the effort to bring it to Wichita for restoration.

It had been sitting for 31 years at the China Lake Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons range as a bombing target.

Sometime after Doc’s arrival to Wichita, 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 area business leaders and aviation enthusiasts formed Doc’s Friends, a nonprofit, and acquired the B-29 from Mazzolini in 2013. The following year restoration was restarted.

Since last fall, the restoration effort and the airplane have reached a number of milestones, including a successful start of its four, new 3,600-horsepower engines, a Kickstarter campaign that netted $159,151 and Federal Aviation Administration airworthiness certification.

Jerry Siebenmark: 316-268-6576, @jsiebenmark