Pilot Milestone: 500+ hours in B-29 Doc

Of the nearly 4,000 B-29 Superfortress aircraft that were built by the United States during World War II, only two remain airworthy and in flying condition today. B-29 Doc (owned by Doc’s Friends, Inc.) and B-29 Fifi (a member of the Commemorative Air Force / CAF), are the two surviving B-29 aircraft that operate tour stops across the United States with a shared mission of honoring the men and women who designed, built, flew and maintained warbirds during WWII.

Mark Novak

B-29 Doc Chief Pilot Mark Novak has logged more than 500 hours of flight time in Doc.

Since the restoration of B-29 Doc was completed in 2016, the historic warbird has logged more than 650 flight hours over eight and a half tour seasons. Throughout that time, a dedicated and sharp group of flight crew members including pilots, flight engineers and scanners have served on hundreds of flights—or sorties, as we call them—as volunteers to ensure Doc’s safe operation and mission continues. An even larger group of volunteer maintenance and ground personnel work year-round in Doc’s hangar in Wichita, KS, to ensure the success of the mission.

Since flight operations began nine years ago, one of the key members of the volunteer team has been pilot Mark Novak

This year in April, Mark (who, since 2017, has served as Doc’s Chief Pilot) achieved a major milestone as a B-29 Doc pilot; logging more than 500 hours in B-29 Doc. And when you add up the more than 300 hours he flew as a pilot in the CAF’s B-29 Fifi, he’s the highest-time current B-29 pilot in the world.


So, how do you become a B-29 pilot, much less the high-time pilot between the only two airworthy B-29s? Mark would say it’s all about being in the right place, at the right time.

“In 2011, a good friend of mine, David Oliver, said that Fifi was returning to flight after a 3-year re-engine project and needed pilots,” Novak recalled. “I had attended Fifi ground school 15 years earlier and knew that volunteering on the B-29 would be a dream come true. I was retired from the Air Force and serving on the flight crew was exactly what I needed. That was 13 years ago and I’m so glad I said yes.”

Mark NovakBack in 2016, a retired U.S. Air Force B-1 Bomber and KC-135 pilot named Mark Novak was among the first to fly Doc during its initial flight-testing phase. Novak, who served 27-and-a-half years in the USAF, and a 1984 graduate of the United States Air Force Academy, joined the B-29 Doc flight crew after serving as an aircraft commander and pilot in command and instructor pilot for B-29 Fifi (the Commemorative Air Force B-29) for five years.

As the Doc mission transitioned from restoration in 2016, through flight testing and into flight operations a year later, Doc’s Friends, Inc., needed a Chief Pilot to oversee the pilots, flight crews and movement of the historic warbird.

“Mark tells the story that when we asked our team of pilots who would be interested in serving as Doc’s Chief Pilot, he was the slowest pilot to back away from the table…which of course draws smiles and chuckles from those on our team,” said Josh Wells, B -29 Doc executive director. “The truth is, Mark is a phenomenal warbird pilot and a great leader, and he’s laser-focused on safety and the long-term operation of B-29 Doc. That’s what made him a natural fit to be our Chief Pilot.”


Mark’s passion for flying and carrying on the legacy of the men and women who designed, built, flew and maintained B-29s during WWII and the Korean War is what makes him dedicated to Doc’s mission.

B-29s Doc and FIFI

Mark Novak is one of only a few pilots still active today who has flown both airworthy B-29s, Doc and FiFi.

“When we fly Doc to air shows and to tour stops across the nation, people get a chance to see our nation’s history in a very unique and up-close way,” Novak continued.

It’s that up-close and unique experience of seeing warbirds like Doc and others that Novak says generates inspiration and creates memories that last a lifetime.

“I hope that some kid will see what we do with Doc and be inspired to learn to fly or get involved in aviation. Better yet, they can learn about our nation’s history and the legacies of the Greatest Generation, and even their parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents who may have served in the warbirds we fly today.”


When Mark isn’t on tour with Doc, he’s flying his T-6 Texan and watching his daughter Natalie build her flight hours as a recent college graduate and launch her aviation career.

“When I asked my daughter a few years ago what she wanted to be when she grew up, she responded ‘Dad, I’d like to be a pilot.'”

When pressed a bit harder for details, he soon understood why she wanted to follow in her father’s footsteps.

“She said…’I’ve never really seen you work a day in your life, Dad…and you have a ton of fun doing it!’ She’s right; I suppose I’ve been blessed to have an aviation career and I’m honored to fly Doc and other warbirds to honor the men and women who served our country in tough times.”

Recently while leading cockpit tours on a B-29 Doc tour stop in Virginia, someone asked Mark what he does when he’s not flying Doc.

His response was quick, witty and truthful…and 100% Mark Novak.

“I fly something else!”

It’s what Mark does and it’s what keeps him going.

B-29 Doc and the US Navy Blue Angels

B-29 Doc Pilot Mark Novak at the controls of Doc in 2019 flying in formation with the U.S. Navy Blue Angels.


As the high-time current B-29 pilot (a designation that he doesn’t take lightly), he’s humbled to be leading Doc’s mission from the left seat of only one of two B-29 Superfortresses still flying today.

“I tell people there are lots of people flying today, but only a few of us get the honor and privilege to fly a historic warbird and national treasure. The men and women who designed, built and flew these airplanes, and then the volunteers who spent nearly two decades in Wichita restoring Doc, are the true heroes. I’m just the guy who gets to sit in the seat and help drive the mission.”

Those volunteers Mark mentions, along with dozens more in the area around Inyokern, CA, are the foundation behind Doc’s present-day mission.

“Without our team of dedicated volunteers—both past and present—we would not be able to do what we do to share the stories of the Greatest Generation and honor their legacies,” Wells continued. “It’s something none of us take for granted each day we are on tour; and without the dedicated work of our maintenance and flight crews, the mission to honor, educate and connect would not be able to take flight. We are forever grateful to Mark, all our pilots, flight crews and volunteers who, as Mark said, are the true heroes of Doc’s current mission.”