WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — Wichita is home to the B-29 Superfortress Doc because of its place in aviation history, the men and women who built the World War II military aircraft, and the countless volunteers who devoted years and hundreds of thousands of hours to restore the aircraft which was originally manufactured here.

One of the original riveters was one of those who volunteered to help restore Doc, and she still volunteers at the B-29 Doc Hangar and Visitor’s Center today.

“Connie The Riveter” is celebrating her 98th birthday.

This huge piece of aviation history – one of only two of its kind in the world that can fly – is back home in Wichita because of the work of many volunteers like those who gathered for a private reception last week at the B-29 Doc hangar.

“Let’s face it, I may have recovered it, but we couldn’t have gotten where we are today without these volunteers,” says Tony Mazzolini.

Mazzolini is the man who found the B-29 World War II Superfortress rotting away on the floor of the Mojave desert back in 1987. He felt the need to preserve this piece of aviation history.

“Jason, it was an experience. I don’t know if I could do it again. But it was quite an experience trying to move that airplane after sitting for 42 years,” said Mazzolini.

Once it was delivered to Wichita years later, the restoration process would take 16 more years and 450,000 volunteer hours to complete.

One of those who volunteered was Connie Palacioz.

“You know, I built it, then I helped restore it,” said Palacioz. “So, that means a lot to me. I really like that plane!”

That’s right. The Newton resident was an original “Rosie the Riveter” who helped to assemble our beloved Doc.

“She started working for the Boeing Company when she was 18 years old doing rivets on the B-29 and specifically on this particular airplane,” said Mazzolini.

“We worked on the Doc, and we riveted 1,644 planes on the nose section,” added Palacioz.

Wichita built 1,644 B-29s, more than any other manufacturer or city. And Palacioz, who just turned 98, takes great pride in the role she played during the war effort and the poster depicting her as Wichita’s “Rosie The Riveter.”

“It really means a lot to me when I see my poster like that. It gives me great pleasure to be part of it,” said Palacioz.

“She is proud of what we have done on the airplane. When she flies with it, she’s so happy to be part of the crew,” said Mazzolini.

Yes, Connie has literally flown Doc… briefly.

“The pilot said, ‘Do you want to?’ So, he gave me the wheel, and I went, ‘I thought I was going to go this way,’ and he said, ‘Turn it that way,’ and so I did. I said, ‘Now you can have it! I don’t want it anymore,” she laughed.

A big 98th birthday bash for Palacioz is planned for Saturday at the B-29 Doc hangar. An orchestra from Kansas City is coming in to provide the entertainment. Palacioz still volunteers at Doc’s hangar one day a week.