- Associated Press - Sunday, September 20, 2015

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - A 15-year effort to turn a discarded World War II bomber into only the second airworthy B-29 Superfortress in the world moved forward, when all four of the plane’s engines were fired up for the first time since 1956.

“Doc” was discovered at a bombing range in California’s Mojave desert in 1987 by Tony Mazzolini, a former flight engineer who trucked the bomber to Wichita in 2000 in pieces.

On Friday, three of the 3,600-horsepower engines roared to life fairly quickly, but Engine No. 2 took about 20 minutes to get to turn over, The Wichita Eagle (https://bit.ly/1FmS7fZ ) reported.

“I said, ‘Don’t let me down now, baby,’ ” said Mazzolini, who was inside the cockpit.

Jim Murphy, restoration program manager for Doc’s Friends, attributed the difficulty to a rich fuel mixture and battery power.

“(Doc’s) in better shape than when it came out of the factory the first time,” he said.

The plane was brought to Wichita because of Boeing, which provided hangar space for its restoration. But the recession and a lack of ample hangar space caused the restoration to be put on hold before a group of business leaders and aviation enthusiasts formed Doc’s Friends and acquired the B-29 from Mazzolini in 2013.

Restoration began the next year.

“The last two years have been very, very productive,” volunteer David Eslinger said.

Doc’s Friends hopes to have the plane in the air for the first flight in a few months.

Only one other airworthy B-29 - known as FIFI - exists. That plane is scheduled to appear at an air show in the Kansas City suburb of Olathe next weekend.

Connie Palacioz, 90, has been a restoration volunteer since Doc’s arrival to Wichita. She worked on the B-29 line in Wichita when she was 18, including putting rivets in Doc’s nose section, she said.

Boeing’s Wichita plant turned out 1,644 of the airplanes, which are best known as the bomber type that dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

“I . cried tears,” Palacioz said after the engines started. “I thought I would never see this day.”


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

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