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The B-17 Flying Fortress - Symbol Of American Air Power

by John White |

During World War II the B-17 Flying Fortress was flown by approximately 250,00 Americans in both the European and Pacific theaters of war. The B-17 was originally designed by Boeing, made its first flight on July 28th, 1935, and entered service with the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1938. 12,731 B-17s were manufactured between 1936 and 1945, and the last B-17 was retired from the Brazilian Air Force in 1968. The aircraft was designed to carry a large bomb payload over long distances with the ability to sustain heavy damage and have a basic design allowing it to be mass produced during the Second World War. Each aircraft cost approximately $ 240,000 and has become an icon of American air power and a symbol of the Air Force. The B-17 Flying Fortress was used for daylight precision bombing of strategic targets in Germany and in the Pacific to bomb Japanese shipping and Japanese air fields. To get a taste of what the air campaign was like, consider the 1943 raid on a ball bearing plant in Schweinfurt, Germany. In all 211 B-17 Flying Fortress aircraft took part in the raid during which 30% of the aircraft were lost (60 B-17s). The large number of aircraft participating in these raids departing from England to attack targets in Europe lead to the description of these raids as "The Aluminum Overcast". The B-17 Flying Fortress carried a crew of 10 consisting of:
  • Pilot;
  • Co-Pilot;
  • Navigator;
  • Bombardier/Nose Gunner;
  • Flight Engineer/Top Turret Gunner;
  • Radio Operator;
  • 2 Waist Gunners;
  • Bottom Ball Turret Gunner;
  • Tail Gunner.
The aircraft was powered by 4 Wright R-1820-97 "Cyclone" Supercharged Radial Engines rated at 1,200hp each. It cruised at 182 mph and had a range of 2,000 miles carrying a 6,000 pound bomb load and had a service ceiling of 35,000 feet. Armed with 13 .50 caliber M2 Browning machine guns it was a formidable aircraft to attack. B-17 Flying Fortress In Flight Production took place at a Boeing factory in Burbank, CA, and in order to protect the plant from attack by Japan the factory was covered with camouflage to hide it from air attack. Here is a photo of how the plant looked in those days: Boeing Plant In Burbank CA Under Camouflage During World War II You can read more about how military plants were hidden during World War II at "Hiding In Plain Sight". Today a number of these aircraft are still flying, including "The Aluminum Overcast" belonging to the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA). Here is a video of a flight in this aircraft: You can read more about this aircraft and see its 2012 schedule at the EAA B-17 Flying Fortress website. For more information on flying this marvelous aircraft you can find this interesting hardcover book Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress Manual: 1935 Onwards on Amazon. If you have a Kindle try reading Combat Crew: The Story of 25 Combat Missions Over Europe From the Daily Journal of a B-17 Gunner or Fortress Against The Sun: The B-17 Flying Fortress In The Pacific. Last, but not least, you can find an excellent model of the B-17G Fortress (Silver) here. Please share "The B-17 Flying Fortress - Symbol Of American Air Power" with your friends using the buttons below. Thanks! Until next time keep your wings straight and level Hersch! JetAviator7+ ps: Don't forget to sign up for our newsletter "All Things Aviation" here!

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