RESTORATION OF DOC

When Tony Mazzolini first saw the "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" squadron of eight B-29 Superfortress bombers at Griffiss Air Force Base in Rome, New York in the early 1950s, he had no clue that he would someday find one of them sitting in the desert at China Lake in 1987---and in such good condition. Mazzolini has a special attachment to the Superfortress, as he was a member of a B-29 crew when he served in the Air Force. Being able to bring one back to life has become a mission for him.

The only known surviving member of the squadron, "Doc" is about to come to life once again, restored to actual flying condition at the hands of Mazzolini and other aviation buffs at Boeing in Witchita, KS. "Doc," which features the picture of the Walt Disney movie character of the same name on its nose, originally sat about 20 miles north of the Armitage Field runways at the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake.

Doc's first journey towards rebirth was to be taken to Inyokern CA where the restoration process started at the United States Aviation Museum. Doc remained at Inyokern for approximately two years where restoration had begun. The rational and the decision to move the B-29 was one of necessity, the severity of the corrosion in the center wing skins and lower spar required the plane be jacked and jigged for a lengthy period of time. The nature of this work needed to be in a hangar because of the severe unpredictable winds and other climate considerations.

After four independent inspections done on this airplane over the last two years, each one confirmed the other...the major work needed to be done. Inyokern did not have the infrastructure, equipment and technicians to perform the rather delicate work and the clock was running out!

doc-then

"Doc" before dismantling and moving from Inyokern, CA to Boeing in Witchita

"Doc," (B-29 Superfortress 44-69972, Production # 10805) ) was manufactured by Boeing Aircraft Company at Wichita, KS, and delivered to the Air Force on March 23, 1945. "Doc" has four engines with 2,200 horsepower each. The plane has a wingspan that stretches 141 feet, three inches, is 99 feet long and stands 29 feet, seven inches high. When fully loaded, she weighed 141,000 pounds. The plane could fly up to 358 mph, had a range of 4,100 miles, could carry up to 20,000 pounds of bombs, and held enemy aircraft at bay with 10 machine guns and one 20mm cannon. It took a crew of 10 to fly the plane.


DOC'S ASSIGNMENTS

Mar 45 To Birmingham Modification Center, Birmingham, AL
Apr 45 To Barksdale Field, LA
Nov 45 To Pyote Field, TX
Feb 46 Tot 414st Base Unit, Pyote Field, TX
Oct 50 To 2753rd Aircraft Storage Squadron ( Air Material Command), Pyote AFB, TX
Nov 50 To San Antonio Air Material Area, TX
May 51 Redesignated TB-29
Jul 51 To 7th Radar Calibration Squadron (Air Defense Command), Griffiss AFB, NY
Sep 52 To 109th Radar Calibration Squadron (ADC) Griffiss AFB, NY
Dec 52 To 1st Radar Calibration Squadron (ADC) Griffiss AFB, NY
Mar 54 To 4713rd Radar Evaluation Flight (ADC) Griffiss AFB, NY
Mar 55 To Arco Manufacturing Corp., Berry Field, TN for work
May 55 To 17th Tow Target Squadron (ADC) Yuma County Airport, AZ
May 55 To 4750th Air Defense Wing (ADC) Yuma County Airport, AZ
Mar 56 Dropped from the USAF inventory by transfer to the US Navy


"Doc" was transferred from the Air Force to China Lake on Oct. 15, 1956 to be used as a ballistic target for air combat training. It was one of 50 to be used for that purpose. Four times over the decades, "Doc" was used as a sitting target; four times, missiles missed. Then the Navy fed its mothballed B-29s to the shredder. "Doc", tucked away on the test range, was spared. By the late 1980s, the Navy agreed to give up Doc, but only if Tony found a B-25 -- another World War II plane -- and restored it for a Naval museum in Florida. That brought a whole different set of hassles.

nose
Tony says, "the desire became an obsession." He struck out on his own, located a B-25 in Venezuela, tore it down, shipped it to Cleveland, put it back together and restored it to the Navy's specifications. The project took six years and cost a quarter of a million dollars. By 1998, the Navy traded its B-29 for Mr. Mazzolini's newly restored B-25.

The Navy came to admire Mr. Mazzolini's perseverance. "He was incredibly patient and persistent," says Steven Boster, director of public affairs at China Lake. "Most people
would have given up long before he did," says Mr. Boster. "But he kept at it. He fought off a number of people who wanted that aircraft."

Here are some photos of "Doc" on her way back home to Wichita, KS and Boeing.

convoy

Convoy of trucks about 7 miles from Wichita

engines
The engines head for "home"

fuselage

The fuselage . . .

 

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