The newly restored B-29 Superfortress named “Doc” will be getting a permanent home soon. Doc’s Friends Inc., owner of the rare aircraft, announced plans to build a facility at the Dwight D. Eisenhower airport in Wichita, KS.
The 32,000 square foot facility will include a large hangar for storage and maintenance of the WWII bomber as well as space dedicated to an education center. Illustrations of the new building show large windows to view the aircraft along with a raised viewing balcony inside the hangar.
“We’ve said from the beginning that our vision was to build a permanent home for Doc in Wichita. Doc’s home will be a centerpiece to celebrate not only Wichita’s place in aviation history, but it will be a cornerstone to celebrate the men and women who built, maintained and served in the B-29 to protect our freedom. It will also be a unique place for future generations to connect with the majestic warbird through STEM education and perhaps they, too, will be inspired to a career in a STEM-related field,” says Jeff Turner, board chairman of Doc’s Friends Inc.
Over $4.5 million has been raised for the construction already, and further donations are being sought to reach the estimated $6.5 million final cost. Actual work on the site should begin in September and last for one year.
Nearly everyone in the airshow community lost a friend this weekend. Pilot Vlado Lenoch, along with passenger Bethany Root, was killed when the P-51 Mustang “Baby Duck” crashed near Atchison, Kansas Sunday morning. Vlado had performed at the Amelia Earhart Festival the previous night in Atchison. Bethany was the manager of the airport there, and Vlado was no doubt taking her for a flight before heading home.
Vlado was an airshow and warbird icon, and one of the most prolific pilots here in the Midwest. He flew many types, but was most closely associated with P-51 Mustangs; especially “Moonbeam McSwine”, which he owned for many years. After selling Moonbeam he instead became synonymous with Baby Duck and frequently flew it all across the Midwest. He was also an Aerobatic Competency Evaluator (ACE) for other pilots and one of the few civilian pilots in the US Air Force Heritage Flight program.
Vlado Lenoch of Burr Ridge, Illinois is married with three children. His love of aviation began in 1970 when, at age 17, he learned to fly at Chicago’s Midway Airport. He earned an aeronautical engineering degree from Purdue and a Master’s degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Following college, he was employed at the Boeing Commercial Airplane Company in Seattle as a 747 instructor. From that point, he was employed at two major airlines flying the Boeing 727 and Douglas DC-9 aircraft. Currently, he flies a corporate Citation jet for a private company in Illinois.
Lenoch is a licensed Airline Transport pilot with flight instructor ratings in single and multi-engine aircraft, instruments and gliders. He holds authorization for the B-727, Cessna 525, F-86, A-1, A-37, L-39, T-33, P-40, P-47, P-51, F6F, F4U and T-28 aircraft. Vlado has over 11,000 hours of flight time and has built his own aircraft, a Pitts S-1T biplane, which he competes in at the highest level.
A member since 1997, the year in which the Heritage Flight program was founded, Vlado is one of the most seasoned pilots. He has been a director in the FAST Fighter Formation program since 1990 and an ICAS and EAA Warbird Aerobatic Competency Evaluator since 1995. Vlado is a lifetime member in the Commemorative Air Force, Soaring Society of America and Experimental Aircraft Association. Vlado’s great uncle, Cvitan Galic (of Czech ancestry), was a 39-victory Luftwaffe Fighter Ace in the Me-109 in World War II.
Vlado was also famous for his laid back and friendly attitude. Everyone was his friend, and he was always willing to help us pesky photographers out. We worked with him on many occasions through the years, setting up on board cameras and taking photos of the cockpit. Two of us were standing on Baby Duck’s wing doing just that only two weeks ago – we took a smiling selfie that is almost haunting now. We were starting to look at that footage today, before the news broke. All of us here at AirshowStuff, and so many more like us, will miss Vlado terribly. Our condolences further go out to his family as well as the family of his passenger.
Volumes could be written about Vlado’s kind heart and piloting skill, but we think the best tribute is to simply watch the master pilot work at what he loved. Enjoy the video below, remember the smiles he brought to everyone’s face, and keep ’em flying. Please share your own photos, videos, and memories of Vlado in our forums – we want to see them all as we attempt to process this tremendous loss.
This year’s EAA AirVenture is set to feature not one but TWO flying B-29 Superfortresses. That’s right, both “FIFI” and “Doc”, the only flying B-29s in the world, are planning to attend!
Earlier today, Doc’s Friends, the group behind the aircraft, announced four stops on the first half of Doc’s planned 2017 tour. Doc recently completed ‘phase one’ of the initial flight testing program following a lengthy restoration in Kansas, which allows it to be flown to airshows. These events will be important fundraising opportunities for the group, and an exciting opportunity for fans to see a ‘new’ and extremely rare aircraft. Be sure to check our forums for the other dates and updates at the rest of the schedule is announced!
The Commemorative Air Force had previously released a partial schedule for their B-29, FIFI. FIFI is authorized to give rides, and tours the country each year to raise money for the organization.
The two aircraft will cross paths in Oshkosh, WI this July 24-30, during the massive EAA AirVenture airshow. We look forward to bringing you the sights and sounds of this amazing meetup between the only airworthy B-29s!
Update: Eagle-eyed fans have pointed out that these aircraft will actually cross paths earlier in the year, as both are scheduled to attend the airshow at Barksdale AFB in Louisiana in May! This summer will be very exciting for B-29 fans!
After a couple decades of hard work, the world gained a second flying B-29 Superfortress this morning when “Doc” took to the skies at McConnell AFB in Kansas. The Commemorative Air Force’s B-29 “Fifi” was previously the only flying example of the type. The first flight event was live streamed online for those not in the gathered crowd, and a replay can be viewed below for those who missed it. Now “Doc” will continue with a program of managed flight testing to fully prove all of the aircraft’s systems. If the timing works out, it may even be able to make an appearance at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh!
You can learn more about the project and help with the continued efforts here.
The eagerly anticipated first flight of the B-29 Superfortress “Doc” has been scheduled for Sunday, July 17th. The flight will mark a culmination of 16 years of restoration by volunteers in Wichita. The flight is expected to take place in the early morning, weather allowing, and viewing information will be announced for anyone in the area who wants to watch. The group leading the restoration recently obtained permission from the Department of Defense to use the military runway at McConnell AFB for the flight.
The planned timing does leave open the possibility for Doc to attend this year’s EAA AirVenture Oshkosh show at the end of the month. Hours of flight testing will need to be completed first, though. The world’s only other flyable B-29, “Fifi”, is already confirmed for AirVenture.