Doc Visits the Lehigh Valley…Twice!

One of the world's two airworthy B-29 Superfortresses visits Pennsylvania and is met with hours-long lines of curious and enthusiastic members of the public

Doc takes off from Runway 24 on its second visit to Lehigh Valley International Airport. [Photo by Nick Chismar]


By Nick Chismar

Those living in the Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania are no strangers to the rumble of aircraft overhead. Home to the state’s fourth busiest airport, Lehigh Valley International, it’s a common sight to see airliners flying in and out with FedEx and Amazon flights mixed in the bunch. The rumble of these aircraft on takeoff is just another every day sound, but on May 6th there was a new rumble over the Valley as the Boeing B-29 Superfortress Doc arrived in the Valley.

The unmistakable sight of a B-29 taking off became – for a while at least – a regular sight at the airport. [Photo by Nick Chismar]

Back at the end of April, Doc’s Friends made the surprise announcement that they will be stopping in Allentown, PA at Lehigh Valley International. This was huge news for local aviation enthusiasts that immediately had phones going off as the word spread. The last time that a warbird touched down at LVIA was in 2020 when the EAA’s Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress Aluminum Overcast visited the area. Since then it has only been business as usual in the Valley, but that would all change at the beginning of May.

Doc is greeted on arrival in the Lehigh Valley. [Photo by Nick Chismar]

After a few days of a break, Doc opened to excited crowds on Thursday May 9th, however Pennsylvania’s weather isn’t always the most cooperative. Friday’s weather took a turn with seemingly endless rain, but while some may have stayed home there was still a crowd lining up at the airport. Eager visitors hunkered down under Doc’s wings as the rain attempted to soak everyone in the cold breeze. While those in line eagerly waited, enthusiastic volunteers with Doc kept things moving while answering each and every question visitors could think of. With their help the rain didn’t seem so bad, and flow of visitors touring the aircraft kept a steady pace.

As the rain fell the B-29’s interior was opened for visitors to tour. [Photo by Nick Chismar]

Saturday morning would kick off the first of what was to originally be four ride flights. Photographers and aviation enthusiasts started to set up early in the morning, watching their phones and keeping up with the airport weather report to find the best spot to watch the first takeoff. Some viewers came from out of state, making short treks from across the border in New Jersey and some from New York and even Delaware. I found myself at the end of the runway, right on the centerline, with a group of local enthusiasts and a few people who had never seen a B-29 before. Doc would pass directly overhead, shaking every vehicle in the lot as it went by. For those who had never seen a B-29, the takeoff left them speechless.

An enthusiast gets ready to take a photo of Doc as the aircraft turns in for landing near dusk. [Photo by Nick Chismar]

Back at the main gate, a massive line was starting to form. All four of the planned flights had already sold out by mid-morning and the line was beginning to stretch around the hangar next door. By the time Doc completed its second flight of the morning the line had gone past the hangar and was making its way toward the FBO. Soon enough, the line for ground tours stretched nearly a quarter mile long with a two and a half hour wait. It was apparent that the Lehigh Valley had more than shown up, and with interest in rides growing two more flights were added for Saturday and Sunday afternoon.

Even the rain didn’t stop the faithful and the curious from coming out to see the special visitor. [Photo by Nick Chismar]

At 3:30pm on Saturday the ground tours were officially closed, but with the line still stretching around the hangar the 5pm flight time would come and go while the last paid visitors existed the area. It wouldn’t be until 6pm when riders would start their walk to the aircraft. After a thorough safety briefing and introductions by the crew, riders climbed aboard, chocks were pulled, and the massive Wright R-3350 Duplex Cyclones roared to life. It wasn’t long until the massive aircraft was roaring down Runway 24 and lifting off into the evening sky above the Lehigh Valley.

Belching smoke, Doc’s number three engine roars into life. [Photo by Nick Chismar]
Doc taxis on the Saturday of its first visit to LVIA. [Photo by Nick Chismar]

Pennsylvania’s Spring weather would strike again on Sunday morning. Low ceilings and rain would push the morning flights well into the afternoon, but much like on Friday there was still a steady line for ground tours. When the 5pm flight landed on Sunday many took one final look at the iconic warbird as it was scheduled to depart for Dover Air Force Base on Monday. Monday’s departure came and went, but there was another surprise in store.

Another takeoff with another load of happy, excited and nostalgic people. [Photo by Nick Chismar]
The pilots of Doc ease the big bird down for landing at Lehigh Valley International. [Photo by Nick Chismar]

On May 17th, Doc’s Friends announced they would be coming back to Lehigh Valley International after the First State Airshow at Dover AFB for additional ride flights. It was a shock to have Doc visit the Valley once, but to come back one week later for more flights was incredible. Once again, photographers and enthusiasts lined the fences and roads around the airport to catch a glimpse of the iconic warbird in the Valley before they departed for Cincinnati, Ohio.

Crowds clamored to see Doc and to fly aboard the famous B-29. [Photo by Nick Chismar]

So, how did Doc end up coming back to the Lehigh Valley? I had the privilege of talking to Josh Wells, Executive Director and General Manager for Doc’s Friends, about their time in the Lehigh Valley. According to Josh, the first came about as they looked for places to visit in Pennsylvania, in which LVIA seemed to fit well. Little did they know, the Lehigh Valley was more than excited to have Doc in town. “It was almost overwhelming…” with a nearly quarter mile line with a two and a half hour wait. Those who came out were passionate about their mission to honor, connect, and educate and had a passion for the aircraft itself. Parents, children, grandparents, and veterans came out in droves to see and support Doc during their visit.

A poignant moment as an older visitor comes face to face with Doc. [Photo by Nick Chismar]

With interest in additional ride flights still coming in and with a few day break before they needed to be in Cincinnati, they decided it would be worth it to reach out and return to the Lehigh Valley for four more flights. All four of these would be sold out by the time they were back on Monday the 20th. Josh estimates that over 3000 people came out between the two stops at LVIA. While they don’t keep any official records, he believes that the stop in the Lehigh Valley was “one of the most well attended tour stops we have had across the country.”

Riders and members of Doc’s crew gather with the iconic warbird to have their photo taken by Brett Schauf. [Photo by Nick Chismar]

When asked if the Doc might return to the Lehigh Valley in years to come, Josh quickly answered “absolutely”. While Josh said there is no guarantee on when they will be back, there is always the possibility that the Lehigh Valley will be a tour stop on their 2025 or 2026 East Coast Tour, and thanks to the response here they would “like to return with more warbirds.”

Doc was an unfamiliar, but most welcome, addition to the Lehigh Valley International flightline: a sight hopefully to be repeated again in the coming years. [Photo by Nick Chismar]

I would like to thank the volunteers with Doc for their time, help, and generosity. Special thanks to Josh Wells for his time and Brett Schauf for the opportunity to photograph such an iconic aircraft.

Doc’s History Restored Tour is in full swing throughout the summer and well into the fall. To keep up with all of their stops and any additions, be sure to follow them on all of their social media like Facebook, X, Instagram, and YouTube as well as on their website.

Doc touches down as the sun sets on Lehigh Valley. [Photo by Nick Chismar]
Array

Be the first to comment

Graphic Design, Branding and Aviation Art

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*