Committed to Excellence: Doc maintenance volunteer honored by the FAA

Bob Hays, B-29 Doc Volunteer and Master Mechanic

The B-29 Doc team of volunteers and maintainers is world-class and fully committed to ensuring the long-term success and safe operation of B-29 Doc for generations to come.

This week, and for the third time in the organization’s history, a B-29 Doc maintenance team member was honored by the Federal Aviation Administration with its most prestigious award: The Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award. The award recognizes the lifetime accomplishments of senior aviation mechanics and is given to mechanics who have exhibited exemplary aviation expertise, distinguished professionalism, and steadfast commitment for at least 50 years of aviation maintenance experience. Click here to learn more about the Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award and its criteria.

Photo: Bob Hays receives FAA recognition

FAA Wichita FSDO Aviation Safety Inspector Rick Stevens presented Bob Hays with the Charles Taylor and Wright Brothers awards at the B-29 Doc Hangar, Education and Visitors Center on Nov. 21, 2023. Pictured, left to right: Rick Stevens, Bob and wife Denise. Photo by: Brett Schauf.

Bob Hays launched his aviation career in 1967 when he enrolled in flight training at a small airport in Phillipsburg, KS. After a successful private pilot check ride 12 months later, Bob wasn’t satisfied and continued looking for ways to learn more about aviation and aircraft maintenance. After serving in the Kansas Army National Guard, Bob completed his aircraft maintenance training and received his FAA Mechanic’s Certificate in 1975. In addition to his mechanic expertise, Bob received his commercial flight instructor’s rating (CFI), along with an airline transport rating (ATP), which opened the door for a career that included managing the Phillipsburg Municipal Airport, working for Air Midwest Airlines in Springfield, MO, Cessna Aircraft Company in Wichita, KS, Ameriflight in Omaha, NE, and finally at Yingling Aviation back in Wichita.¬†At Yingling Aviation, Bob received his Inspection Authorization (IA) in 2010 and served as Yingling’s Quality Assurance Manager until his retirement in 2017.

During his time at Yingling, Bob began to get involved in the B-29 Doc program, serving as an inspector and then as a maintenance team and A&P mechanic volunteer, a role he continues to participate in today.

“Bob is part of the backbone of our B-29 Doc maintenance team,” said Donnie Obreiter, B-29 Doc director of maintenance. “His knowledge, expertise and attention to detail with aircraft maintenance provide key oversight for our maintenance activities. We are grateful for Bob and his commitment to excellence and to our mission.”

In addition to the Charles Taylor Award, the FAA also recognized Bob for his long-time pilot career, too.

The FAA’s Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award recognizes those pilots who have demonstrated professionalism, skill and aviation expertise by maintaining 50 or more consecutive years of safe flight operations.

“When I took that first flight lesson in 1967, I had no idea it would lead to nearly 60 years of being hooked on aviation and flying,” Bob said. “I’ve been blessed to have a career that has allowed me to work with so many people in an ever-changing and evolving industry that has helped to connect people and make air travel safe for so many people. I am humbled to receive these honors and recognition from the FAA, and I look forward to continuing to volunteer and work with my fellow B-29 Doc maintainers to keep Doc flying for generations to come.”

Jim, Bob and Wes

B-29 Doc maintenance volunteers and Charles Taylor Award winners: (left to right) Jim Rierson, Bob Hays and Wes Lumry. Photo by: Brett Schauf

Bob joins fellow B-29 Doc maintenance team members Jim Rierson and Wes Lumry, who have also been honored with the FAA’s Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award. Jim and Wes were honored with the award in 2018.

“The expertise and knowledge of our B-29 Doc volunteers and maintenance team members is truly inspiring,” said Josh Wells, B-29 Doc executive director and general manager. “Having Bob, Jim and Wes on our maintenance team to share their vast knowledge allows us to continue training the next generation of Doc maintainers, which will allow Doc to continue to fly and remain airworthy for years to come. Our volunteers and maintenance team members and their attention to detail and safety is world-class. These team members and the hundreds of others who have donated their time and effort since Doc was pulled from the Mojave Desert in California three decades ago are the true heroes of Doc’s story.”

Click here to view the entire Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award Roll of Honor

Click here to view the entire Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award Roll of Honor