- Associated Press - Saturday, December 20, 2014

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Restoration work is taking longer than expected on a B-29 Superfortress bomber that was last used during the Korean War.

The bomber, which has a 141-feet wingspan, is expected to make its first flight in the spring instead of by year’s end as volunteers had initially planned, The Wichita Eagle (https://bit.ly/1GQeCEG) reported.

Built in Wichita 70 years ago, the plane was dubbed “Doc” after being assigned to a squadron of eight bombers named for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. It was finished too late to fly bombing missions during World War II, though it eventually served as a radar trainer during the Korean War - but then it fell into disrepair in the Mojave Desert, where for 42 years it served as a sanctuary for birds and other desert creatures. It also was used by the Navy as target practice.

Delays putting in the fuel system were the biggest holdup, said Jim Murphy, the program manager for the restoration project. Now, weather is a factor because the outside temperature must be above 50 degrees to warm the oil enough to lubricate the engines properly for taxi testing and flight.

“We don’t have portable oil heaters,” Murphy said.

The plan is to roll the airplane outside in March, fuel it and run the engines. A large roll-out ceremony will take place at that time. Next, taxi tests will be performed and the first flight is expected to take place in April or May, depending on weather.

“Our No. 1 goal is to get to the finish line and get it in the air,” Murphy said.

The plan is to take the plane to the Experimental Aircraft Association’s AirVenture Oshkosh airshow in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, an annual summer gathering of aviation enthusiasts. Organizers want to fly the plane in formation with the only other B-29 Superfortress that’s flying, Fifi.

The B-29 will burn 500 gallons of fuel and 2.5 gallons of oil an hour and cost close to $10,000 an hour to fly, Murphy said.

“When we first started the project, a lot of people would come in and visit it,” Murphy said. “As they walked out, you’d hear them say, ‘Yeah, sure, that thing is going to fly again.’ Everyone believed it was a pipe dream.”

Now, “as we get close to the finish line, everybody is excited,” he said.

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Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, https://www.kansas.com

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