Doc, the Wichita, Kansas-based Boeing B-29 Superfortress that is oh-so-close to flying, is in for a cold winter, and no protection from hail storms that are common in Kansas. The aircraft had to vacate the hangar it was in at McConnell Air Force Base, and the engines can’t be started below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, so there will be no first flight until it warms up in 2016.
The Air Force is getting large Boeing 767 tankers soon and has no hangar space to spare. It had to tear down older hangars that could have been used by Doc to make way for larger hangars. Construction of the Air Force hangars can be seen on the current view available on Google Earth. The hangar where Doc was restored on the opposite side of the airport from the U.S. Air Force installation is no longer available and is in use by a new occupant.
“We were on pins and needles last weekend when a hail storm came through,” said Wichita businessman Jim Murphy, who headed the successful restoration effort. The aircraft was not struck by the hail storm. Murphy said it was 19 degrees Fahrenheit in Wichita Dec. 18, and warm temperatures will not return until March of 2016.
The latest last-ditch effort is to find some sort of A-frame structure that can keep the snow and ice—not to mention hail—off Doc during the winter. Those efforts are continuing as the winter deepens.
“It’s not a good situation,” Murphy said. It is hoped that one day Doc can be based in Wichita as a flying attraction for the nation, and perhaps fly in formation at EAA AirVenture with Fifi, the only B-29 currently able to fly.
The aircraft passed two key milestones recently toward its goal of returning to the air: the first engine start and a successful fundraising drive to raise money for the first flight. Money is no longer the problem. Survival of the aircraft through the winter is the new threat.