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Doc's heart is beating again

After a half-dozen tries, and ”motoring“ to remove fuel from the flooded engine, engine No. 2 joined the rest, so that for the first time in nearly seven decades, all of Doc's engines were running.

When it was over, T.J. Norman, supervisor of the restoration of Doc, the B-29 bomber in Wichita, Kansas, leapt from the pilot’s seat and extended half his body through the window, applauding in the direction of the volunteers who put Doc back together again. Then he reached down to the cartoon drawing of one of Snow White’s favorite dwarfs and patted the head of Doc.

That pat was mostly for Doc’s willingness to start engine No. 2, the one hiccup in the first engine start for the bomber in many decades—nearly seven. Engine No. 2 is inboard on the pilot’s side of the aircraft, the left side. The first engine start is a huge milestone toward the first flight that hopefully could occur in October.

First there are many more engine starts and tests at higher revolutions per minute. Engine No. 2 will have to be looked at. It appears it was a sticky throttle-mixture lever that provided too much fuel during the start attempt, flooding it. Motoring, or running the engine with the starter motor without ignition, was used to pump the excess fuel out of the engine. The start took place across from McConnell Air Force Base, which owns the runways Doc must use for first flight.

Actually making that first flight involves two steps. The FAA must approve an engine run-up demonstration, and the Air Force must grant an exception to allow Doc to land after the first flight. At the moment the rules say that once Doc takes off, he’ll need to go somewhere else to land because returning to the Air Force base isn’t permitted.

Present in the copilot seat was Tony Mazzolini, who wrestled Doc away from the U.S. Navy (it wanted another warbird as a trade and he got it for them) and out of the California desert. It was a bombing target, last of a group of B-29s all named after the Seven Dwarfs. Another of that group is in an aviation museum in Arizona.

“Tony’s a kid again,” said Norman. “He’s 25 again.”

“All of the quality work paid off,” said 81-year-old Mazzolini.

“Doc” seen from the right side.

Alton Marsh

Alton K. Marsh

Freelance journalist
Alton K. Marsh is a former senior editor of AOPA Pilot and is now a freelance journalist specializing in aviation topics.
Topics: Vintage, Aircraft, Ownership

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