The B-29 Superfortress "Doc" landed in Mason City just after 11 a.m. Wednesday, minutes ahead of the first raindrops.
One of the only two B-29 Superfortress bombers that is restored and flight-worthy is in Mason City for the B-29 Doc Flight Experience tour Wednesday and Thursday, and flights on Thursday morning.
A handful of North Iowans took the 40-minute flight Wednesday from St. Paul to the Mason City Municipal Airport and all had the same reaction.
"It was awesome," said Guy Minert, from Mason City. "I've flown a few times, but this just catapulted to the top of the list."
The youngest person on the flight was 5-year-old Liam Kyle, the son of North Iowa Air Service Vice President/Chief Pilot Todd Kyle. He was jazzed that he was able to sit in the bombardier's chair the entire flight.
"I really liked that I got to sit in the nose of the plane," said Liam. "I could see everything from the window. It was so cool."
Alice Hanley thought the flight on the B-29 bomber was "incredible" and looked at it through a historical lens.
"It puts a whole new perspective on the World War II movies you watch, especially the fight scenes," she said. "It was loud, but it was a lot smoother ride than I thought it would be. The views from the bubble windows were amazing."
According to Boeing's "Historical Snapshot," B-29s were primarily used in the Pacific theater during World War II. As many as 1,000 Superfortresses at a time bombed Tokyo, destroying large parts of the city.
Finally, on Aug. 6, 1945, the B-29 Enola Gay dropped the world's first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. Three days later, a second B-29, Bockscar, dropped another atomic bomb on Nagasaki. Shortly thereafter, Japan surrendered.
After the war, B-29s were adapted for several functions, including in-flight refueling, antisubmarine patrol, weather reconnaissance and rescue duty. The B-29 saw military service again in Korea between 1950 and 1953, battling new adversaries: jet fighters and electronic weapons.
The last B-29 in squadron use retired from service in September 1960.
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Josh Wells, the executive director of Doc's Friends Inc., the nonprofit managing the operation of the Boeing B-29 Superfortress known as Doc, said he is lucky to be able to fly in the historic plane so often.
He said what makes the operation successful are the volunteers.
During the 2000-2016 restoration period, Wells said there have been 450,000 volunteer hours, with thousands more since Doc has taken flight in 2016 after years of restoration efforts.
"These are the heroes that restored Doc," he said. "Those heroes allow us to honor the heroes that have protected our freedoms. We restored it so people can experience it."
Wells said he is moved each time he sees a WWII veteran approach and touch the B-29 Superfortress. He said they are transformed to when they were 18 years old.
"It takes them back," he said. "It's magical."
Cockpit tours of the B-29 Superfortress were Wednesday (3-7 p.m.) and Thursday. Gates open at 11 a.m. Thursday following two morning ride flights and will close at 3 p.m.
Admission for the static display event and cockpit tours is $10 per person.
The flight schedule for the B-29 Doc Flight Experience is 8:30 a.m. and 10 a.m. Thursday.
Wells said that as of Wednesday, the flights were half full, but he expects once people see the B-29, they will go fast.
Ticket prices range from $600 to $1,500 for a seat in the nose of the plane. That is primarily due to the cost of operating the four-engine plane, which is about $3,600 per flight hour.
"It's an experience you will never forget," Wells said.
For details about the B-29 Doc Flight Experience and to purchase ride tickets, visit www.b29doc.com/rides.
Jerry Smith is Special Projects Editor for the Globe Gazette. He can be reached at 641-421-0556.