Exactly one year from the day B-29 “Doc” took to the skies for the first time in 60 years, officials of the group that owns the World War II bomber announced a new, permanent home for it.
The Wichita-built and restored airplane will have permanent residence in a 32,000-square-foot building on the grounds of Wichita Eisenhower National Airport.
Officials from Doc’s Friends, the nonprofit group that owns the historic warbird, said at a Monday morning news conference that about two-thirds of the cost of constructing the $6.5 million hangar and education center has already been raised.
Hutton Construction is the general contractor, and Schaefer Johnson Cox Frey Architecture is the building’s designer.
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With $4.5 million raised, “we are confident now that we can begin the project and open this to the public in September of 2018,” Jeff Turner, Doc’s Friends chairman and retired Spirit AeroSystems CEO, said at the news conference.
Groundbreaking on the building is expected in September. It will be located along the 1700 block of South Airport Road, on a vacant lot just north of the former Cessna Employees Flying Club building.
The building will feature a 16-foot-high, 75-foot-long window in the front enabling passersby to view the Boeing Superfortress day and night when the airplane isn’t flying, said architect Sam Frey.
Twenty-four-thousand square feet of the building will be used to house and maintain Doc, which has a 99-foot-long fuselage and a wing span of 141 feet.
Most of the remaining space will be used for an education center, which will include “hands on learning experiences” tied to STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education.
An upper deck in the hangar will allow visitors to see Doc even during times when the airplane is undergoing maintenance. When crews aren’t maintaining the airplane, visitors will be able to walk up to the World War II-bomber type most known for its role in dropping atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Doc’s current quarters, in a hangar behind security fences and armed guards at Air Capital Flight Line, doesn’t permit public access.
“This airplane was and is a scientific marvel,” Turner said. “The science, the technology that went into this airplane is a tremendous platform to teach STEM in our schools and with civic groups. We turn away thousands of kids right now who would love to come and learn about the airplane, the technology and the history because we don’t have a place to do it.
“And so we’re going to fix that.”
To make way for Doc’s access to the new building from Eisenhower’s east runway, a t-hangar operated by Yingling Aviation will be razed, Yingling owner Lynn Nichols said, adding airplane owners who store their aircraft in the affected building, will be moved to other hangars at Eisenhower.
A Kickstarter campaign and sales of bricks to be placed in a plaza area in front of the new building are expected to complete the fundraising, officials said. Information on sales of bricks and the Kickstarter will be available at b-29doc.com.