|By Mark Nankivil|
Doc has been 16 years in the making. The story of the trials and tribulations, along with the drive and determination to make it this far, will one day make a fine book. 360,000+ man hours have been put into Doc, and once the FAA review is completed and the team has the "go" to fly, there will be a second gleaming B-29 taking to the air (she has already run her engines). Having the opportunity to see Doc was special, and I look forward to seeing it in the air and in formation with FiFi one day on the airshow circuit. Imagine two B-29s flying together - something not seen since the late '50s!
There was severe weather forecast for the day we visited Doc, so the team had pulled her into one of the Spirit AeroSystems hangars as a precaution. Lighting was a bit tough for photos, but you can see a complete B-29, reborn at the place of its birth in 1945, and the sound of four 3350s taking her into the air is not that far off. Be sure to look through all of the B-29doc.com website for photos, videos and especially the history of Doc and her supporters. Plans are for Doc to remain based in the Wichita area, and she will become a credit to Midwest Aviation in the years to come.
Occupying much of what used to be Boeing Wichita, Spirit AeroSystems is a major subcontractor on numerous commercial and military programs. One of their largest programs is the fabrication and assembly of Boeing 737 fuselages, which leave the Wichita facility by rail on the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) and travel cross-country to Boeing's Renton facility in Washington State (just north of Seattle) for assembly into complete 737s. A visit to Wichita is likely to find a few fuselages on their specialized rail cars being readied. While we were there, two fuselages were ready to make their late night trip out of town.
The Aero Experience extends our appreciation to Josh Wells from Spirit AeroSystems and to Jim Murphy for taking the time to allow us to see Doc and for sharing their stories about her. Jim, in particular, took time away from his meetings with the FAA staff reviewing the piles of documentation that we hope will lead to the coveted ticket to fly. For more on the legacy of Boeing Wichita, check http://www.wingsoverkansas.com/legacy/a375/.
Once we had left Doc, we headed over to the Kansas Air National Guard portion of the base located on the west side, just north of the Kansas Aviation Museum. The Kansas Air National Guard has a long and distinguished history, having flown a number of different aircraft types including the current KC-135R with the 190th Air Refueling Wing out of Topeka. The display aircraft are well laid out and as you can see, are in overall excellent condition.
Over on the east side of the base, at the Kansas Street entrance off of South Rock Road, there are three display aircraft close to the main gate - an F-105F Thunderchief, EC-135K Stratotanker and a B-47E Stratojet.