B-29 Doc returns to Terre Haute

·5 min read

Jul. 13—The B-29 Doc History Restored Tour returns to Terre Haute for a three-day stop, two-day tour.

One of only two B-29 Superfortresses still airworthy and flying, "Doc" was slated to arrive mid afternoon Monday at Terre Haute Regional Airport. However, the historic aircraft's arrival was delayed from rain storms in front of the plane, which had taken off from St. Louis, Missouri, forcing it to land in Illinois. The plane was able to land in Terre Haute about 6:30 p.m. Monday.

"We are ecstatic to welcome back to Hoosier Aviation 'Doc.' It is wonderful to share with out community this amazing piece of living history," said Nicole Brown, co-owner of Hoosier Aviation, adding "weather happens" and the plane's crew had to react to avoid storms.

Rain also delayed an early morning ride for passengers today, however, two flights slated for today will go forward as weather improves, said Mark Novack, who pilots the B-29.

Novak said aviation has advanced quickly, noting the Wright Brothers, who invented the airplane, only flew 120 feet in their first flight, which is shorter than the wingspan of the B-29, at 141 feet, that was developed 40 years later.

"So then 40 years after the B-29, we had the space shuttle, so it shows how quickly aviation has advanced and now we have pilotless aircraft like the Predator and Global Hawk," Novak said.

Jordan Brown, co-owner of Hoosier Aviation, is flying as a co-pilot.

"I am new to flying this, just started flying [the B-29] this year," Brown said. "It is a whole lot quicker and lot more maneuverable than I expected it to be," said Brown, who has also flown a B-17 bomber, also a World War II era aircraft. "This carried a 20,000 pound bomb load, while the B-17 only carried an 8,000 pound bomb load. It is a neat airplane to fly."

Terre Haute is the second stop for the tour in July that includes visits to seven cities across five states. The tour started in St. Louis. After Terre Haute, the tour goes to Cincinnati and Cleveland in Ohio; Kalamazoo in Michigan; and Oshkosh and Appleton, Wisconsin.

"We are excited to bring the full B-29 Doc History Restored Tour back to Terre Haute this year," Josh Wells, B-29 Doc general manager and executive director, said in a statement. "Last fall, we spent a few days in Terre Haute and hosted ride flights but due to COVID-19, we were unable to offer cockpit and ground tours. On this visit, visitors will not only be able to fly in the B-29 Doc, but they'll also be able to get an up-close-and-personal look at the warbird that helped deliver victory in Japan for the Allies during World War II."

After two flights today, the plane will be on the ground and available for tours, weather dependent, from noon to 4 p.m. On Wednesday, the plane will have two more flights for the public — at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. — and the ground tour.

Ground tours are $10 per person or $20 per family and can be purchased at the gate. Those wanting a ground tour or ride in a flight should arrive at Hoosier Aviation, 581 S. Airport St.

Flights are available with tickets at www.b29doc.com/rides.

The B-29 Doc flight has nine seats. The bombardier (at $1,500 a ride), cockpit/pilot observer (at $1,200), navigator ($1,200) and six gunner seats ($600 each). The bombardier, cockpit/pilot observer and navigator seats are in the front section of the aircraft, while the six gunner seats are in the rear section of the aircraft.

Each passenger must be able to climb a 6-foot ladder and enter the crew entry door, which is 19 inches wide and 32 inches tall in the aft section. Passengers must also be able to climb through the pressure bulkhead door (circle) which is 29.5 inches in diameter.

For the forward section, passengers must be able to climb a 6-foot ladder and enter through the forward crew entry door, which is 37 inches by 29 inches.

Operating the vintage aircraft, especially one that is 99 feet long, with a wingspan of 141 feet, 3 inches, is costly. The B-29 burns about 450 gallons of 100 low lead aviation fuel per flight hour. On average, the price per gallon of the fuel is $5.70. That means for only one hour of flying time, it costs about $2,500 for fuel, according to Doc's Friends Inc.

In addition to fuel and oil costs, there are maintenance expenses. In all, the estimated cost per flight is about $3,600. Flight rides and ground tours help offset expenses.

"It's an honor for our crew to bring B-29 Doc to Terre Haute as we honor the men and women of the Greatest Generation who designed, built, flew and maintained these magnificent machines to protect our freedom. Our mission is to ensure the legacy and stories of the Greatest Generation are passed down to future generations, as we continue to honor the men and women who are still fighting for our freedom at home and abroad," Wells said.

The vintage aircraft will return to the B-29 Doc Hangar, Education and Visitors Center in Wichita, Kansas on Aug. 2.

The B-29 Doc History Restored tour in the month of July launched in Wichita on July 2.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached 812-231-4204 or howard.greninger@tribstar.com. Follow on Twitter@TribStarHoward.

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