Airman helps restore historic aircraft

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class John Linzmeier
  • 22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
As a child, he spent countless hours drawing aircraft from his World War II book collection, daydreaming of what it would like to be inside of one.

As an adult and veteran of 19 years, his aircraft dreams are still alive and even more vivid. Now, he spends much of his free time restoring one of the last flyable B-29 Superfortress.

Tech. Sgt. Geoffrey Jensen, 22nd Maintenance Group logistic resource management program NCO in charge, became a volunteer for Doc's Friends restoration project in March and has been hooked on helping ever since.

Doc, a B-29 named after a character from the fairytale 'Snow White,' was originally built in Wichita during World War II. It has been parked inside a Boeing hangar next to McConnell, close enough for Jensen to do a little work during his lunch break, something he does frequently.

"It's like brining history to life," said Jensen. "There are a lot of people who have never even heard of this airplane. It's the same model that dropped the atomic bomb and ended World War II, and it's so cool that I get to be a part of that."

Working on an aircraft is nothing new to Jensen. He was a flightline crew chief for 18 years and has brought all of his experience with him to aid the restoration project, however, he's not the only one with military experience.

"We've got a large number of veterans helping out here, including a 95-year-old," said TJ Norman, volunteer manager. "It's so nice having these Air Force guys over here, because all I have to do is show them what project we are working on and they know exactly what to do."

The aircraft is being pieced together to resemble its original image with a few modifications for increased safety. Jensen has helped to implement modern avionics technologies while trying to maintain the aircraft's originality.

Jensen's enthusiasm for the restoration project has spread to other members in his family as well. His wife is helping to manage operational aspects of Project Doc and even his father has joined him on a few occasions.

"When my dad helped me install the pilot seat, he said that 'it was one of the best days he's ever had' because he was able to help restore it and we worked on it together," said Jensen.

Doc's restoration in Wichita began 14 years ago and the airplane has been grounded for more than 50 years.

"Thanks to our sponsors and the support we've had from the volunteers like 'Geoff', we're on track and expecting to do our first test flight late October or early November," said Norman.

While Jensen has spent his entire Air Force career working on the maintenance side of flying operations, he is aiming to become a part of Doc's aircrew after he retires in April next year.

"We want to try to get him in as a flight engineer, which is the most important job on this airplane," said Norman.

Out of the six crewmembers, which are needed to fly a B-29, the flight engineer is responsible for controlling the throttles, monitoring engines, fuel and more.

The volunteers, otherwise known as Doc's Friends, still have a lot of work to do in order for the B-29 to take flight again. Still, Jensen is honored to be a part of the effort of bringing history to life.

"I'm trying to do as much work as I can on it," said Jensen. "It's a huge, prideful thing to do. This truly is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."