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. 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: 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!
by John White •