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The Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress four-engine heavy bomber is one of the most famous, and successful, airplanes ever built. The B-17 received the name "Flying Fortress" from a Seattle news reporter who commented on its defensive firepower, and said "It's a Flying Fortress".

B-17 Flying Fortress in World War II

This section of Planes Of The Past is meant to be a tribute to those who designed & built the B-17, the crews who flew her, and those who have worked tirelessly to preserve this famous World War II airplane and its history.

Design and Development of the Boeing B-17

The original intent for the B-17 was the protection of the U.S. mainland from invasion fleets. In 1934, the Boeing Aircraft Company of Seattle, Washington, began construction of a four-engine heavy bomber. Known as Boeing Model 299, it first took flight on July 28, 1935. The government ordered production of 13 of these aircraft, designated the Y1B-17. Delivery of these first production models was between January 11 and August 4, 1937.

When Pearl Harbor was bombed by the Japanese on December 7, 1941, few B-17s were in service. But production lines quickly ramped up, and production of B-17E, B-17F and B-17G models were produced at fast rates.

... about the B-17 design, development, models and specifications

B-17 Flying Fortress made possible through the purchase of war bonds during World War II, 1943, in Alexandria, Louisiana, Rapides ParishB-17G purchased with War Bonds

B-17 Action in World War II

B-17s served in every World War II combat zone. The aircraft is best known for daylight strategic bombing of German industrial targets. The B-17 flew mostly out of England, equipping 26 of the 40 bombardment groups of the 8th Air Force.

Early models proved to be unsuitable for combat use over Europe and it was the B-17E that was first successfully used by the USAAF. The defense expected from bombers operating in close formation alone did not prove effective and the bombers needed fighter escorts to operate successfully.

Because of their long-range capability, formations of B-17s often flew into battle with no fighter escort, relying on their own defensive capabilities to insure a successful mission.

Aerial view of military aircraft in storage in 1946 Aerial view of military aircraft in storage in 1946 (U.S. Air Force archives)

Following the end of World War II, the B-17 was quickly phased out of use as a bomber and the Army Air Forces retired most of its fleet.

Flight crews ferried the bombers back across the Atlantic and Pacific to the United States where the majority were sold for scrap and melted down at disposal depots such as Kingman Army Air Field in Arizona (see photo to the right).


Specifications: B-17G (final production model)

Armament: 13 .50-cal. machine guns; normal bomb load of 6,000 lbs.
Engines: Four Wright Cyclone R-1820s of 1,200 hp each
Maximum speed:
300 mph
Cruising speed: 170 mph
Range: 1,850 miles
Ceiling: 35,000 ft.
Span: 103 ft. 10 in.
Length: 74 ft. 4 in.
Height: 19 ft. 1 in.
Weight: 55,000 lbs. loaded 

B-17 Flying Fortress Production Recap by Model and Assembly Plant

Production ended in May 1945 and totaled 12,731. They were built by Boeing in Seattle (BO), Douglas Aircraft Co. (DL) in Long Beach, CA and Vega Aircraft Corp. (VE) in Burbank, CA.

... about B-17 Flying Fortress production by model, and by manufacturing plant.


Storage and Disposal of B-17 Flying Fortresses After World War II

Following the end of World War II, the B-17 was quickly phased out of use as a bomber and the Army Air Forces retired most of its fleet. Flight crews ferried the bombers back across the Atlantic and Pacific to the United States where the majority were sold for scrap and melted down at disposal depots and desert boneyards such as Kingman Army Air Field in Arizona.

... about B-17 storage in desert boneyards and scrapping after World War II.


Surviving B-17 Flying Fortresses Listed by State

A total of 39 surviving B-17 airframes are located in the United States. Twelve B-17 are still airworthy today, two F models, and 10 B-17G models. Several are very well known, including "Memphis Belle", "Sentimental Journey", "Nine O Nine" and "Aluminum Overcast".

An additional 18 B-17s are on static display around the United States, including "Virgin's Delight" located at the Castle Air Museum in Atwater, California, and "I'll Be Around" at the Pima Air Museum in Tucson. In addition, 9 aircraft are undergoing restoration or are in storage.

... and view a list of surviving B-17 aircraft, serial numbers, names, museum locations by city and state


B-17 Flying Fortress "I'll Be Around" Photos Courtesy of the Author

Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress "I'll Be Around" at the 390th Memorial Museum, Tucson
Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress "I'll Be Around" at the 390th Memorial Museum, Tucson

B-17 Flying Fortress "Short Bier" Photos Courtesy of the Author

B-17G "Short Bier" - S/N 44-83663 - on display at the Hill Aerospace Museum in Ogden, Utah

B-17G "Short Bier" - S/N 44-83663 - on display at the Hill Aerospace Museum in Ogden, Utah

B-17 Flying Fortress "Boeing Bee" Photos Courtesy of the Author

B-17F "Boeing Bee" - S/N 42-29782 - on display at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, WA

B-17F "Boeing Bee" - S/N 42-29782 - on display at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, WA

B-17G Flying Fortress "Miss Liberty" Photos Courtesy of the Author

Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress "Miss Liberty" S/N 231340 at the Barksdale Global Power Museum
Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress "Miss Liberty" at the Global Power Museum

B-17 Flying Fortress "Virgin's Delight" Photos Courtesy of the Author

B-17G "Virgin's Delight" - S/N 43-38635 - on display at the Castle Air Museum, Atwater, CA

B-17 "Virgin's Delight" on display at Castle Air Museum

B-17 Flying Fortress "Nine O Nine" Photos Courtesy of the Author

B-17G "Nine O Nine" on the Wings of Freedom Tour in Tyler Texas (March 2013)

B-17G "Nine O Nine" on the Wings of Freedom Tour in Tyler Texas (March 2013)

More B-17 Photos

Y1B17-A ... the Boeing B-17 Prototype (U.S. Air Force photo)

Y1B17-A

B-17 9203 (U.S. Air Force photo)

B-17 Flying Fortress

B-17 flying over the Panama Canal (U.S. Air Force photo)

B-17 flying over the Panama Canal

B-17D over water (U.S. Air Force photo)

B-17 Flying Fortress

B-17F S/N 42-30043 (U.S. Air Force photo)

B-17F S/N 42-30043

B-17 "Memphis Belle" during war bonds tour (U.S. Air Force photo)

B-17 "Memphis Belle" during war bonds tour

Nose art on B-17F Flying Fortress "Memphis Belle" (Air Force Photo)
Nose art on B-17F Flying Fortress "Memphis Belle"
Nose art on B-17F Flying Fortress "Idiot's Delight" (Air Force Photo)
Nose art on B-17F Flying Fortress "Idiot's Delight"
Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress "Shoo Shoo Shoo Baby" (photo courtesy of the Museum of the US Air Force)
Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress "Shoo Shoo Shoo Baby"
Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress "Aluminum Overcast" nose art
Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress "Aluminum Overcast" nose art
Nose art on Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress "Heavens Above" at Lackland AFB, San Antonio, Texas
Nose art on Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress "Heavens Above" at Lackland AFB, San Antonio, Texas

B-17 Photo Courtesy of the Louisiana History Museum

B-17 Flying Fortress in World War II
B-17 Flying Fortress in World War II

Special thanks to the Louisiana History Museum for granting permission
to use this historic photo from its archives


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