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Doc Checkup

By Jim Busha, EAA Director of Publications, EAA 119684

December 15, 2016 - My last Doc checkup was more than two and a half years ago. Not a very smart or health-conscious way to go through life if you want to maintain a fit lifestyle. But this checkup had nothing to do with my blood pressure, pulse, or overall health condition; this was about visiting the newly restored Boeing B-29 Superfortress called Doc.

In early December 2016, myself and EAA photographer Erin Brueggen traveled to Wichita, Kansas, where we were invited to inspect, photograph, and crawl through one of only two airworthy B-29s in the world, which has been lovingly restored over the last 16 years by a group of volunteers affectionately known as “Doc’s Friends.”

The last time I laid eyes on Doc, it was completely engineless, with a bare interior and a large hangar full of pieces and parts that needed to be restored or remanufactured, and re-installed. When I last spoke to T.J. Norman, flight operations director/chief of maintenance, he told me it was like “eating an elephant — one bite at a time!”

Now, slowly gazing over the shining and meticulously polished example of Boeing’s mighty World War II bomber, sitting on the same ramp where it was built in March 1945, I was amazed by not only its transformation, but the accomplishments of a group of dedicated volunteers.

“Over 350,000-plus volunteer hours is all it took to put over a million pieces back together,” T.J. said as he opened the crew hatch to allow us an opportunity to step back in time.

What we saw inside took our breath away. I was invited to sit in the pilot’s seat, at the controls of a brand new B-29 with less than 12 hours’ flight time on it and could not help but stare ahead through the huge glass nose, wondering what it must have been like to pilot one of these bombers. All around us, everything we touched and looked at transported us to 1945.

We hope you agree when you look at the photos that accompany this short story. But we promise there will be much more from EAA on Doc, with a feature story about it first flights in a future issue of Sport Aviation. For now, imagine being inside the photos, strap yourself into this historic treasure, close your eyes, and dream. With a little luck you may even see two B-29s together at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2017.Want to help Doc continue to fly? Learn more about how you can assist with this worthwhile project

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