“We have the coolest job on the planet. Full stop, 100 percent.” For Josh Wells, Executive Director and General Manager of Doc’s Friends, each day he walks into a career that keeps him inspired, motivated, and excited.
Doc’s Friends is a nonprofit board that manages the operation of one of the only two flying B-29 Superfortress’, known in the air show industry as “Doc.” And for Wells, leading the program for the past three years has become a passion. Working in a communications capacity with the organization over the past six years, Wells has been able to link a lifelong love with his career.
“Wichita is known as the air capital of the world,” noted Wells, who grew up in the area as a kid. “I was always looking up,” he remarked, and that’s where he fell in love with warbirds. Through a career in communications, stemming from radio, to politics, and ultimately back to aviation, Wells was always confident his path would allow him to do something he loved.
“I have been blessed to do lots of things,” said Wells, “but my goal is to position and lead this organization to allow it to continue to grow.” Between the current difficulties of the pandemic and the ongoing increase in aviation operating costs, a significant challenge is brewing. “Since the end of 2019, we have faced a mountain of challenges in the aviation industry as a whole,” remarked Wells, “but we took the challenges and hit them head on.”
Between working in a leaner environment and finding ways to keep costs low, Wells believes that there is a way forward, but that enduring plan also must include the next generation. “There are lots of opportunities to bring the next generation into the aviation industry,” said Wells, “but unless we are able to inspire [them], we won’t be able to achieve any of our long-term goals.” And for Wells, that all starts with the job of telling the stories and the history of both the aircraft and the people who helped build it. “We must continue their legacy,” he said. “We cannot lose focus of the warbird team mission to honor the past generations.”
That focus alone, though, is not enough. As an air show industry, working together to understand and handle the increased costs of insurance, fuel, oil, and overall operations is something Wells feels strongly about. “We as an industry must lead to work and partner with the decision makers,” he said. “We need to partner together to continue to lead the industry in a positive direction, and we must be our own biggest fans and support each other.”
In his current role, Wells recognizes the unique position he is truly in. “People are passionate about Doc, and you cannot fully understand that until you’ve been a part of the warbird family,” he noted. “That is one of the most humbling and surprising things of my job.” And ultimately, his job is about the people that surround him. “If we take good care of our team and volunteers, we will be successful,” remarked Wells. “Simply saying I appreciate you, letting people know that, is inspiring.”
Ultimately, Wells understands the monumental task at hand in the air show industry and takes the role he plays to heart. “The airplane, is bigger than any one person.”