WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A World War II aircraft that took nearly 16 years to restore might be flying over Kansas in the next few weeks after receiving a certificate of airworthiness from the Federal Aviation Administration.
A nonprofit group called Doc's Friends on Friday officially accepted the FAA certificate for a B-29 bomber known as "Doc." The group has worked to restore the aircraft since its parts arrived in Wichita in 2000. The certificate is one of the final hurdles to getting it off the ground, The Wichita Eagle reported (http://bit.ly/1U5MoP6 ).
Several dozen members of Doc's Friends and other supporters attended the ceremony at the World War II aircraft's hangar at Air Capital Flight Line, the grounds of the former Boeing Wichita complex.
"The biggest thing is how important this airplane is to history," said Jeff Turner, board chairman for Doc's Friends. "The light of freedom was growing dimmer (during World War II), and the men and women of our nation rose up and secured our freedom. I don't want us to ever forget that."
The group will seek permission from the Pentagon to operate "Doc" at McConnell Air Force Base. The plane could be flying in the next few weeks, said Turner, who estimated 350,000 volunteer hours have gone into the restoration.
Tony Mazzolini, who discovered the plane's parts on a bombing range in California's Mojave Desert in 1987, traveled from Cleveland for the ceremony. He said he originally thought it would take only two or three years to restore the four-engine plane.
"It has been much more difficult than I originally thought, but it's all been worth it," Mazzolini said. "I wanted to help preserve our aviation history in America, and I wanted to keep the memories of that time period alive."
Some of the volunteers for the restoration worked on the original B-29 line at Boeing in Wichita, or had served as crew members. The Wichita plant manufactured 1,644 of the airplanes, which are best known as the bomber type used to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan, ending World War II in the Pacific.
This story has been corrected to show that restoration work didn't begin until 2000, not 1987.
Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, http://www.kansas.com