B-17 Bomber - History

On March 1st, 1937 the US Army Air Corps received the first of its order of 13 B-17 bombers. These four engine bombers could cruise at a speed of 256 mph at an altitude to 30,000 feet. The B-17 was to be the main US Strategic bomber in Europe during World War II.

The Model 299 was the original bomber design built by Boeing to fulfill an August 1934 requirement by the United States Army Air Corps for a bomber capable of carrying 2,000 lb (907 kg) of bombs 2,000 mi (3,218 km) at 200 mph (322 km/h). [1] The 299 was powered by four Pratt & Whitney S1EG Hornet radial engines rated at 750 horsepower (560 kW) each at 7,000 feet (2,100 m), giving a maximum speed of 236 miles per hour (380 km/h) and a maximum gross weight of 38,053 pounds (17,261 kg). It carried a bomb load of eight 600 pounds (270 kg) bombs, with a defensive armament of five machine guns, with one in a nose turret and one each in dorsal and ventral mounts and two in waist blisters. [2] [3] In 1935, Boeing's Model 299 competed with several entries by other companies at an evaluation at Wright Field near Dayton, Ohio, USA.

On its flight from Seattle, Washington to Wright Field for the competition, the 299 set a nonstop speed record of 252 mph (406 km/h). Though it crashed and burned on takeoff during a demonstration, the crash was due to flight-crew error, not from any flaw in the aircraft. Subsequent implementation of a mandatory pre-flight checklist prior to take-off ensured avoidance of flight crew error. Despite the crash (and more important, its much higher cost per unit), Army Air Corps leaders were impressed by the performance of bomber, so Boeing was awarded an initial development contract. The aircraft has since been referred to as the XB-17, but this designation is not contemporary or official.

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Boeing Model 299 .

Though still enthusiastic about the Boeing design, despite it being disqualified from the fly-off contest following the crash of the Model 299 prototype, the Army Air Corps cut its order from 65 service test YB-17s to just 13. On November 20, 1936, the bomber's normal acquisition funding was changed to "F-1" [ clarification needed ] , and the heavy YB-17 bomber was redesignated "Y1B-17", as a result.

Unlike its predecessor, which had used Pratt & Whitney R-1690 Hornet radial engines, the Y1B-17 used the more powerful Wright R-1820 Cyclone that would become the standard power plant on all B-17s produced. Several changes were also made in the armament, and the crew was reduced from seven to six. Most changes were minor: the most notable was switching from double-wishbone to single-arm landing gear for ease of regular maintenance.

On December 7, 1936, five days after the first flight of the Y1B-17, the brakes on the bomber fused during landing, and it nosed over. Though damage was minimal, the cumulative impact of this event, combined with the crash of the Model 299, triggered a Congressional investigation. Following the crash, the Army Air Corps was put on notice: another such crash would mean the end of the bomber's "F-1" procurement program.

Though the heavy bombers were meant for testing, the commander of Army General Headquarters (Air Force), Major General Frank Andrews, decided to assign twelve Y1B-17s to the 2nd Bomb Group located at Langley Field, Virginia. Andrews reasoned that it was best to develop heavy bombing techniques as quickly as possible. Of the thirteen Boeing aircraft built, one was assigned for stress testing.

In 1937, the twelve Y1B-17s at Langley Field represented the entire American fleet of heavy bombers. Most of the time spent with the bombers entailed eliminating problems with the aircraft. The most important development was the use of a detailed checklist, to be reviewed by the pilot and copilot just prior to each takeoff. It was hoped that this procedure would prevent accidents similar to that which led to the loss of the Model 299 prototype.

In May 1938, the Y1B-17s (now redesignated just B-17) of the 2nd Bombardment Group, led by the lead bombers' navigator Curtis LeMay, took part in a demonstration in which they intercepted the Italian liner Rex. Coming into contact with the liner while it was still 610 mi (982 km) out at sea, the demonstration was meant to prove the range and navigational superiority of the B-17. It also showed that the bomber would be an effective tool for attacking an invasion force before it could reach the United States. The Navy was furious about Army intrusion into their mission, and forced the War Department to issue an order restricting the Army Air Corps from operating more than a hundred miles from the American coastline.

After three years of flight, no serious incidents occurred with the B-17s. In October 1940, they were transferred to the 19th Bombardment Group at March Field.

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Boeing YB-17 .

The aircraft that became the sole Y1B-17A was originally ordered as a static test bed. However, when one of the Y1B-17s survived an inadvertent violent spin during a flight in a thunderhead, Army Air Corps leaders decided that the bomber was exceptionally robust and that there would be no need for static testing. Instead, it was used as a testbed for enhancing engine performance on the new bomber. After studying a variety of configurations, use of a ventral-nacelle-mount turbocharger position was settled on for each of its four engines. A successive series of General Electric-manufactured turbochargers would equip B-17s as standard items, [4] starting with the first production model, allowing it to fly higher and faster than the Y1B-17. When testing was completed, the Y1B-17A was reconfigured as the B-17A, serial number: 37-369.

The B-17B (299M) was the first production model of the B-17 and was essentially a B-17A with a larger rudder, larger flaps, and a redesigned nose and 1,200 hp (895 kW) R-1820-51 engines. The small, globe-like, machine gun turret used in the Y1B-17's upper nose blister was replaced with a .30 caliber (12.7 mm) machine gun, its barrel run through a ball-socket in the upper right pane of the ten-panel Perspex nose glazing. This was held in place by both the socket's strength combined with a flexible interior support strap, later becoming an aluminum-reinforced window pane the Y1B-17's separate triangular-shaped bombardier's aiming window, located in the lower nose, was eliminated, replaced with a framed lower window panel in the 10-panel nose glazing this configuration was used on all Flying Fortress airframes up through the B-17E series. All B-17B aircraft were modified at Boeing, being brought up to the new B-17C/D production standard. While the new nose glazing still used a single .30 caliber machine gun installation, additional ball-sockets were also installed, one in an upper right Perspex nose panel and another in a lower left panel. This multiple ball-socket gun layout continued up through B-17E series production. During Army Air Corps service, the bulged teardrop-shaped machine gun blisters were replaced with flush-mounted Perspex side windows of the type used through all B-17C/D production. Various aircraft had different levels of upgrades performed. Some of the "B" series Fortresses only had their bulged side blisters replaced with slide-out flush windows others also had their bulged upper blister changed to a much flatter, more aerodynamic Perspex window panel. In addition, some "B" series Fortresses also had ventral "bathtub turrets" (see the "C/D" section below) installed, replacing their lower, teardrop-shaped gun blisters.

Crew locations were rearranged, and the original pneumatic brake system was replaced with more efficient hydraulic brakes. [5]

In October 1942 all in-service B-17B aircraft were designated RB-17B, the R indicating "restricted". These aircraft were now used only for training, transport, messenger, and liaison duties. The "R" became a designation for combat obsolescence.

Many of these RB-17B aircraft, along with at least one still-airworthy YB-17, were stationed at Sebring Airfield, where the exterior scenes were filmed for the Warner Bros. war drama Air Force, directed by Howard Hawks, and starring (among others) John Garfield, Arthur Kennedy, Gig Young, and Harry Carey. The film's real star, however, was an RB-17B (United States Army serial number 38-584), carrying on its upper rudder the "security-conscious" serial number "05564". It passed as a later model B-17D Flying Fortress, having had its machine gun blisters replaced and a lower "bathtub" ventral gun turret installed. Many of these aircraft can still be seen in both ground and aerial scenes during the film.

The "B" series Flying Fortress made its maiden flight on June 27, 1939. 39 were built in a single production run, but Army Air Corps serial numbers were scattered over several batches. This was because of limited government funding: The Army Air Corps could only afford to purchase a few B-17Bs at a time.

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Boeing B-17B .

The B-17C was a B-17B with a number of improvements, including more powerful R-1820-65 engines. To boost crew safety, the waist-mounted machine gun blisters were replaced with teardrop-shaped, slide-out Perspex window panels flush with the fuselage, and the ventral blister was replaced by a lower metal housing dubbed a "bathtub turret", similar in appearance and general location on the lower fuselage, to the Bola ventral gondola being used on Nazi Germany's He 111P medium bomber. The most important additions made to the "C" series were self-sealing fuel tanks and defensive armor plate added to vital areas.

With the passage of the Lend-lease Act in 1941, the Royal Air Force requested B-17s. At that time, the US Army Air Corps was suffering from shortages of the B-17, but hesitantly [ citation needed ] agreed to provide 20 examples to the RAF. Though the Air Corps did not consider the B-17 ready for offensive combat, the aircraft was still desperately needed in Britain. The 20 ferried bombers were Boeing production B-17Cs (company designation Model 299T). The aircraft's single .30 caliber nose-mounted machine guns were replaced with 0.5 inch Brownings. [6]

Following their delivery, the 20 B-17C bombers were placed immediately into frontline service and designated RAF Fortress Mk I. They performed unremarkably while in British service. By September 1941, three months after the Army Air Corps became the Army Air Force, 39 sorties had made up 22 missions. Nearly half of those were aborted due to mechanical and electrical problems. Eight of the 20 aircraft were destroyed by September, half to various accidents. Their machine guns tended to freeze-up at high altitudes and were generally unable to effectively protect the Fortresses from German fighter attack. Their success as bombers were also limited, largely because they were unable to strike targets from the high altitudes at which the RAF flew its daylight bombing missions.

The first of the B-17C series flew in July 1940, with a total of 38 being built. The 18 remaining in Army Air Force service, following the 20 transferred to the RAF, were upgraded to Boeing's new B-17D configuration. However, one of these bombers, B-17C 40-2047, crashed while being ferried from Salt Lake City, UT, to Mather Army Air Base, CA, on November 2, 1941. [7]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Boeing B-17C .

Though changes in the design made the Army Air Force decide that the B-17D was worthy of a new sub designation, the B-17C and B-17D were very similar. In fact, both were given the same sub designation (299H) by Boeing.

Several minor changes were made, both internally and externally. Outside, the engines received a set of adjustable cowl flaps for improved cooling, and the externally-mounted bomb racks were removed. On the interior, the electrical system was revised, and another crew position was added. In the aft-dorsal radio compartment was a new overhead twin-.50s machine gun mount in the central-aft section's ventral "bathtub" gun position, twin .50s were also added. Nose gun ball sockets were added to side windows for the first time, in a longitudinally staggered layout (the starboard gun ball socket was further forward than the port-side ball socket). The number of machine guns aboard brought the total armament to 7: one portable nose 0.30 in (7.62 mm) and 6 0.50 in (12.7 mm). The B-17D also featured more extensive armored plate protection. A total of 42 "D" models were built, and the 18 remaining B-17Cs were converted to Boeing's new B-17D standard. The sole-surviving example of the "D" model (originally built in 1940 and nicknamed Ole Betsy by her original aircrew) is currently undergoing restoration at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio. This B-17D was later renamed "The Swoose" by her last pilot Col. Frank Kurtz he later named his daughter, actress Swoosie Kurtz, after the bomber.

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Boeing B-17D .

The B-17E (299-O) was an extensive redesign of the previous B-17D. The most obvious change was the larger, completely new vertical stabilizer, originally developed for the Boeing 307 by George S. Schairer. The new fin had a distinctive shape for the time, with the opposite end of the fuselage retaining the ten panel bombardier's nose glazing from the B-17D.

Because experience had shown that the Flying Fortress would be vulnerable to attack from behind, both a tail gunner's position and a powered, fully traversible dorsal turret behind the cockpit, (each armed with a pair of "light-barrel" Browning AN/M2 .50 cal. machine guns), were added to the B-17E. Until this modification, aircrews had to devise elaborate maneuvers to deal with a direct attack from behind, including swinging the bomber laterally, allowing the waist gunners to alternate .50 caliber bursts at enemy fighters. (The configuration of a "3-window box" would later be implemented on the B-29, and also adopted by Soviet bombers as late as the Tupolev Tu-16 Badger, and in different form on the USAF's B-52). The teardrop-shaped sliding panels of the waist gunners were replaced by rectangular windows, located directly across the fuselage from each other, for better visibility. In the initial production run, the ventral "bathtub" machine gun emplacement of the B-17C/Ds was replaced by a remotely-sighted powered turret. It was similar to the one used on the chin of the B-25B Mitchell medium bomber, but was difficult to use and proved to be a failure in combat. This resulted in all remaining B-17E production being fitted with a powered Sperry ball turret, manually operated from inside. These turrets also equipped the "F" and "G" series Flying Fortresses that followed.

A total of 512 were built (possibly from the July 1940-dated order from the then-USAAC for B-17s being for that specific number of airframes [8] ) making the B-17E the first mass-produced version of the Boeing B-17. One of these was later converted to the XB-38 Flying Fortress, which proved to be a failure during flight tests. The B-17E production order was too large a quantity for Boeing to handle by itself, so the Vega division of Lockheed and Douglas assisted in the manufacture of the bomber. Boeing also built a new production plant, and Douglas added one specifically for building B-17s.

In the middle of 1942, 45 B-17Es were transferred to the RAF, where they served under the designation Fortress IIA. Likely because of the shortcomings experienced with the Fortress I (B-17C), the RAF decided not to use the Fortress IIA as a daylight, high-altitude precision bomber, the role for which it had been redesigned. Rather, the new aircraft were transferred to the Coastal Command for anti-submarine patrol.

Four known examples of B-17Es still exist in museums today, none of which is currently known to be airworthy.

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Boeing B-17E .

The B-17F was an upgrade of the B-17E. Outwardly, both types were distinguished only by the ten-panel fully-framed nose glazing on the "E". A molded, one-piece or two-piece all plexiglas nose cone replaced this framed glazing on the "F" series (the two-piece cone had a nearly-transparent diagonal seam). Fully-feathering paddle-blade propellers were also substituted. Many internal changes were also made to improve the effectiveness, range, and load capacity of the Flying Fortress. Once placed in combat service, however, the "F" series was found to be tail-heavy. The combined weight, when fully combat-loaded, of the four rear gunners and their heavy .50 caliber ammunition, moved the bomber's center of gravity rearward from its original design point. This forced the constant use of the bomber's elevator trim tab, stressing that component to eventual failure. In combat the B-17F also proved almost immediately to have inadequate defensive protection when being attacked directly from the front. Various armament configurations of two-to-four flexible machine guns were added to the plexiglas nose cone and side window positions (the starboard position was placed further forward). Late production "F" series Flying Fortresses received substantially-enlarged bulged "cheek" mounts for their .50 caliber machine guns, now located on each side of the nose. These replaced the previous side window-mounted .50s. These "cheek" mounts allowed for firing more directly ahead. An overhead bulged astrodome was also added on top of the nose for use by the navigator.

The problem of head-on defense was not adequately addressed until the introduction of a powered, Bendix-designed, remotely operated "chin" turret in the final production blocks of F-series Fortresses — starting with the last 65 (86 according to some sources) [9] B-17Fs built by Douglas, from the B-17F-70-DL production block [10] [note 1] — directly derived from its debut on the YB-40 experimental "gunship" version.

By using reinforced landing gear, the maximum bomb capacity was also increased from 4,200 lb (1,900 kg) to 8,000 lb (3,600 kg). Though this modification reduced cruising speed by 70 mph (110 km/h), the increase in bomb-carrying capacity was a decided advantage. A number of other modifications were made, including re-integrating external bomb racks because of the negative impact on both rate-of-climb and high-altitude flight performance, this configuration was rarely used and the bomb racks were once again removed.

Range and combat radius were extended with the installation in mid-production of additional fuel cells in the wings. Called "Tokyo tanks", nine self-sealing rubber-composition fuel tanks were mounted inside each wing on each side of the reinforcing joint between the inner and outer wing spars. With an extra 1,080 US gal (4,100 l) to the 1,700 US gal (6,400 l) available on the first B-17Fs, the "Tokyo tanks" added approximately 900 mi (1,400 km) to the bomber's target capability.

3,405 "F" series Flying Fortresses were built: 2,300 by Boeing, 605 by Douglas, and 500 by Lockheed (Vega). These included the famous Memphis Belle. 19 were transferred to the RAF, where they served with RAF Coastal Command as the Fortress II. Three examples of the B-17F remain in existence, including the restored Memphis Belle.

The History of Nine-O-Nine, the B-17 Bomber That Crashed This Week

The bomber involved in Tuesday&rsquos fatal crash in Connecticut never made it to war, but served as a search and rescue plane and water bomber.

  • The original Nine-O-Nine was a decorated veteran of the air war over Europe.
  • The second plane served as a water bomber and nuclear test target.
  • The restored "Nine-O-Nine" crashed in 1987 and was subject to an extensive rebuilding.

Nine-O-Nine, the B-17 bomber involved in yesterday&rsquos tragic crash in Connecticut, was built too late to serve in World War II, but was later rebuilt to resemble the original Nine O Nine, a veteran of the bomber campaign over Europe. The aircraft had a long postwar career, including a stint as a target in nuclear tests, before a lengthy rebuilding process restored her to flying condition. The bomber did have a close call in 1987, when a landing mishap severely damaged the aircraft.

The original Nine-O-Nine was a Boeing B-17G &ldquoFlying Fortress&rdquo bomber. Nearly 13,000 B-17s were built over the course of World War II, serving in both the Pacific and European theaters. Each four-engine bomber had a crew of ten, a top speed of 287 miles an hour, and could carry a payload of 4,500 bombs on a long distance bombing mission.

The B-17G was assigned to the 323rd Bomb Squadron, 91st Bomb Group. Nine-O-Nine was part of the legendary Eighth Air Force, or &ldquoMighty Eighth,&rdquo a bomber force that struck strategic targets across Germany and occupied Europe. The aircraft&rsquos name came from its serial number, the last three digits of which were 909. The airplane&rsquos nose art depicted a Revolutionary War soldier holding a telescope and riding a bomb.

The Nine-O-Nine was assigned to the Eighth Air Force on February 25, 1944. By April 1945 she had flown 140 missions without a mission abort, which according to Airplanes of the Past &ldquois believed to be the Eighth Air Force record for most missions.&rdquo Nine-O-Nine also never lost a crewman as a casualty. The bomber made eighteen trips to Berlin, flew 1,129 hours, and dropped 2,810 tons of bombs.

But the the bomber was dismantled after the war, and the second Nine-O-Nine was built at Long Beach, California, by the Douglas Aircraft Company and accepted for U.S. Army Air Force service in April 1945. The plane, serial number #44-83575, never saw combat but was converted to a SB-17G search and rescue aircraft in 1951 and served in Puerto Rico. The aircraft later served as part of the Military Air Transport Service, the precursor to the Air Force&rsquos Air Mobility Command.

In 1952, retired from U.S. military service, the aircraft was renamed &ldquoMiss Yucca&rdquo and parked on a nuclear test range in Nevada. There she was subjected to three different nuclear explosions to test the effects of nuclear weapons on aircraft. After a 13-year &ldquocooling down period&rdquo to allow radiation to subside, the bomber was sold as scrap to the Aircraft Specialties Company, which began a lengthy restoration. The bomber then served twenty years as a forest fire water bomber, dropping water and borate on forest fires.

In 1986 the bomber was sold to the Collings Foundation, which restored the plane to wartime condition as Nine-O-Nine. In 1987 the bomber was involved in a serious crash, which the Foundation described as follows:

Following the crash Nine-O-Nine was restored for a third time, stopping at over 1,200 locations before the October 2, 2019 accident, where tragically seven people lost their lives. A full investigation is still ongoing to determine what caused the crash.

An Evolving Aircraft

Only one B-17A was built as Boeing engineers worked tirelessly to improve the aircraft as it moved into production. Including a larger rudder and flaps, 39 B-17Bs were built before switching to the B-17C, which possessed an altered gun arrangement. The first model to see large-scale production, the B-17E (512 aircraft) had the fuselage extended by ten feet as well as the addition of more powerful engines, a larger rudder, a tail gunner position, and an improved nose. This was further refined to the B-17F (3,405) which appeared in 1942. The definitive variant, the B-17G (8,680) featured 13 guns and a crew of ten.

B-17 Sentimental Journey Airbase Arizona

Sentimental Journey was originally manufactured and delivered to the U.S. Army Air Forces for war service in 1944 where she flew missions in the Pacific Theater. After the war she flew for training, testing and at-sea rescue missions and was eventually sold for surplus and used as a fire bomber. In 1978 the aircraft was purchased by a Commemorative Air Force (CAF) member and donated to the newly formed Arizona unit of the world-famous CAF. She was meticulously restored and is today maintained in tip-top condition and operated by all-volunteer crews from the membership of CAF Airbase Arizona.

The B-17 was primarily employed by the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) in the daylight strategic bombing campaign of World War II against German industrial and military targets. The United States Eighth Air Force, based at many airfields in central and southern England, and the Fifteenth Air Force, based in Italy, complemented the RAF Bomber Command's nighttime area bombing in the Combined Bomber Offensive to help secure air superiority over the cities, factories and battlefields of Western Europe in preparation for the invasion of France in 1944. The B-17 also participated to a lesser extent in the War in the Pacific, early in World War II, where it conducted raids against Japanese shipping and airfields.

Post War

After the Second World War, many B-17 were taken off from their employment federations and by replaced their large big sister, the B-29 Superfortress. Most were sent back into the states and landed at the scrap iron place. But only few remained in the U. S. Air Force, where further use for them was. In addition, abroad the B-17 prospective customer found.

After the war was over in Europe, were of 31 Bomber Groups 2118 B-17s flown to the USA and put down by Arizona in a desert between 19th May 1945 to 9th June 1945, many were scrapped and only some were bought by private people or organizations. Whether B 17 stand today certainly there isn’t known to me.

[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons // B-17s at Kingman, Arizona

During the Second World War many B-17 landed more or less intact in the neutral countries such as Sweden. These used some B-17 during and after the war as transport aircrafts.

1948 succeeded to come it Israel into the possession of 3 B-17G. Two machines did not have cannons, which were tower holes openly or provisionally taken off, the navigation equipment was missing and nevertheless Cairo on the flight became to Israel bombarded. No machine was lost. But they all were unfortunately scrapped into the 50s.

USAAF S/N Civil-Registration
44-83753 N5024N
44-83811 N5014N
44-83842 N7712M, interned in Portugal
44-83851 N1098M

Between 1951 and 1955 Brazil arrived into the possession of 13 B-17. 5 was SB-17G and 6 RB-17G. They were assigned to the Forca Aerea Brasilia (FAB). All this B-17 was used for search and rescue missions or for photographic clearing-up. These machines were deactivated in late 60’s.

5400 44-83663 1968 Returned to the US.Displayed in Air Force Base Hill
5401 44-85567 Retired from service in 1967
5402 44-85583 Retired from service in 1968
5403 44-85602 Retired from service in 1966
5404 44-85836 Crash 1959
5405 43-39246 Crash 1962
5406 43-39335 Retired from service in 1966
5407 44-8891 Retired from service in 1967
5408 44-83718 Retired from service in 1968. Restored in a brasil air force museum.
5409 44-83764 Crash 1964
5410 44-83378 Retired from service in 1965
5411 44-85494 Retired from service in 1968
44-85579 Crash 1952

In February 1947 two B-17 arrived into the possession of the Dominican Republic. They survived until 1954.

Between 1947 and 1960 five SB-17G were with the Portuguese in the employment.

US general Eisenhower handed over to France the B-17F 42-30177 special transport for the French general M.P. Koenning. It was scrapped 1973.

Into the 60ern few B-17 were converted to fire-extinguishing airplanes, in order to fight forest fires.

Even if the B-17 could modify still so well and be used for tests, the B-17 was seen also gladly in the film world.

Beside several war documentations 1949 appeared the feature “Twelve O’Clock High” with the B-17 and with the famous actor Gregory Peck.

Beside smaller roles in “Tora! Tora! Tora!” and �, where please Hollywood” is got the B-17 1969 a larger role into the film � of planes Raid”.

But the most beautiful photographs of the B-17 knows one in its youngest and most well-known film “Memphis Belle” to see.

The type of World War II plane that crashed and burst into flames in Connecticut on Wednesday was instrumental in the Allied bombing campaign against Nazi-occupied Europe, efficient enough to carry out daytime raids over Germany and muscular enough to withstand aerial poundings.

A Boeing B-17 went down at the end of a runway at the Bradley International Airport, just outside Hartford, Connecticut, on Wednesday morning, according to officials. There were 13 people on board: three crew and 10 passengers.

"There were fatalities," said James C. Rovella, commissioner of the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection. He did not specify how many people were killed.

The B-17, one of more than 10,000 built, was once dubbed the "Flying Fortress," prized for its ruggedness and versatility. The crafts were most commonly used for bombing expeditions over Germany, but they were also occasionally used in the Pacific theater, where they targeted Japanese ships.

"The B-17 was extremely sturdy, extremely resilient, but it required significant skill to fly it," said Anthony Roman, a former corporate pilot and an aviation security expert with Roman & Associates.

"It developed a reputation for being able to take a significant amount of combat damage," Roman added.

Roman, who has flown as a guest on the B-17 involved in the Connecticut crash, said the aircraft was prized in the World War II-era for its technological might.

"It was one of the first modern strategic aircraft ever built by the U.S. Army," he said. "It's a tremendous loss because this aircraft symbolized the transition to modern America, modern technology."

It was also feared by foes, with its .50-caliber machine guns mounted in "blisters," ready to ward off enemies.

"Without the B-17, we may have lost the war," Gen. Carl Spaatz, the American air commander in Europe, has been widely quoted as saying.

The airport where the crash took place Wednesday — located in Windsor Locks, roughly 15 miles north of Hartford — was hosting a show of vintage World War II craft this week. The show, called "Wings of Freedom," featured many planes owned by the Collins Foundation.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with those who were on that flight and we will be forever grateful to the heroic efforts of the first responders at Bradley," the foundation said in a statement.

Daniel Arkin is a reporter for NBC News who focuses on popular culture and the entertainment industry, particularly film and television.

The Flying Fortress

The Boeing B-17 was built in response to a 1934 request by the US Army Air Corps (USAAC) for strategic bombers. The Corps wanted a plane capable of flying at 10,000 feet, at speeds of up 200 mph, with a range of 2,000 miles.

Within a year, Boeing flew its four-engine prototype, the B-17. A reporter from the Seattle Times, noting the 13 machine guns in turrets on the upper fuselage, belly, tail, and nose, described it as a "flying fortress." Boeing loved the term and immediately trademarked it.

With a crew of 10, the bomber usually carried 4,000 pounds of bombs and had a service ceiling over 25,000 feet, with a maximum speed of 287 mph and a range over 2,000 miles.

B-17s made their combat debut with the British Royal Air Force in 1941 but soon saw action with US forces in Europe and the Pacific. Despite its appearance, the B-17 was not capable of fighting off enemy fighters alone and suffered casualty rates as high as 20%.

This was especially the case for the Army Air Corps, which was responsible for daylight bombing raids over Europe. In one raid on Schweinfurt in Germany, the US lost over 60 of 291 bombers and had 650 crew members killed or captured.

But B-17s were the workhorse of the US bomber fleet in Europe. More than 12,700 were built, and they served on all fronts in WWII, wreaking havoc on German and Japanese targets.

An Incredible Journey

Brought The Bomber to Milwaukie, Oregon

Our World War II B-17G Bomber was originally flown to Oregon by Art Lacey. From 1947 until its closing, the “Flying Fortress” you have seen in Milwaukie, OR sheltered one of the nation’s largest filling stations.

The family Bomber is now in a non-profit B17 Allianace a volunteer colaberation dedicated to restoring this rare historical treasure to her original flying condition.


A brag, a bet, a birthday, and a bomber: The Lacey Lady’s wild journey to Oregon

Serving as a service station canopy in Milwaukie, Oregon for over 67 years, the WWII B-17G Flying Fortress now known as the “Lacey Lady,” stood proudly just a few miles south of Portland, Oregon. Recognized and a part of the Milwaukie community the iconic Bomber Gas Station came to be under a bet, and birthday party. This is the story of the Lacey Lady’s wild one of a kind journey into history.


Art Lacey’s daughter, Punky Scott, knows the story of her father’s wild B-17 adventure well. It all started at a party where her father, a local businessman, bragged that he was going to put a B-17 on top of his gas station.

“Dad was at his birthday party in 1947 and I think he’d probably had a few adult beverages,” Punky said with a laugh. “A friend told him he was out of his mind and could never pull it off. Dad bet him five dollars he could do it and immediately ran with the idea. He turned to another friend, who was also at the party, and asked if he could borrow some money. Happy to help, his friend asked how much. Without batting an eyelash, Dad told him he needed fifteen thousand dollars,” Punky recalled. (Editor’s note: $15,000 in 1947 would be the equivalent of more than $160,000 today.)

“Believe it or not, the guy actually had it on him,” Punky said. “If that sounds surprising, you have to realize what Portland was like back then. The whole area was wide open. There was gambling, prostitution, illegal booze . . . everything,” she said.

Original ferry flight to Altus, Oklahoma from Syracuse , New York (left three photos) | Arrival in Troutdale, Oregon – message on fuselage


After Art got the money, he wasted no time getting the ball rolling on his big plan. “He met with the commander of the Air Force Base in Altus, Oklahoma,” Punky said. “Dad was a real outgoing, personable sort of guy, and he talked him into selling a surplus B-17. The commander told him to come out the next day with his co-pilot and the plane would be ready.”

It was a good plan, except for two problems. First, Art didn’t have a co-pilot. Second, and probably more important, he didn’t know how to fly a B-17. Nonetheless, he was determined to pull it off, so he borrowed a mannequin from a local seamstress and dressed it up to be his “co-pilot.” He then hopped in the plane and made some practice runs on the runway: yoke in one hand, flight manual in the other.

“Dad knew how to fly a single-engine aircraft and he really was a good pilot,” Punky said, “but he didn’t know how to fly the big ones.” He might have been able to fake it had it not been for a malfunction in the plane’s landing gear. “He flew it around a few times and finally just had to bring it in,” Punky recalled. “He was flying low and slow before he skidded and crashed into another B-17 that was parked on the runway.”

Art wasn’t hurt in the mishap but he did have to walk back to headquarters and admit that he really didn’t know how to fly a B-17. The commander took pity on him. He turned to his secretary and asked if she’d written up the bill of sale yet. Fortunately for Art, she hadn’t. “Worst case of wind damage I’ve ever seen!” the commander exclaimed, tongue firmly planted in cheek.


Lacey Lady history in the making

Art ended up buying the second B-17, which was actually a better deal. As it turned out, the first one had seen serious time during the war and it wasn’t in the best condition before the crash. The one he finally bought was in much better shape and had fewer than 50 hours of flight time. Art had already spent more than $13,000 on the crashed B-17 and he didn’t have much money left, so the commander sold him the second plane for $1,500. Art decided it probably wasn’t a good idea for him to fly it by himself, so he lined up some buddies to help him take it home.

“He called Mom and had her send over two of his friends,” said Punky. “One was the guy who had taught him to fly. The other had served as crew chief on a B-17 during the war. He also told her to send a case of whiskey with them.”

The whiskey, Punky explained, was to bribe the local fire department. “Dad didn’t have any money left for gas and he wanted to use their fire truck pumps to siphon fuel out of the two crashed B-17s. Oklahoma was a dry state at the time, so whiskey was a good enticement,” she said.

Thus outfitted, Art and his crew fueled up and took off the next morning for Palm Springs, California. He still didn’t have the money for gas when they arrived, so he wrote a bad check and covered it when he got home. At this point you might be wondering what Art’s wife thought of all this. Punky said her mom was pretty cool about it.

“I think Mom was used to it by that time,” she said. “Dad was pretty crazy. For their whole married life, he was just one of those people who would do anything.”

“They got lost in a snowstorm on the way home,” Punky continued, adding that her dad almost hit a mountain during the flight and even had to fly low to the ground so they could get their bearings from street signs. They finally managed to land safely in Oregon at what is now Portland-Troutdale Airport.

Lacey Lady Troudale, Oregon 1947 | Moved to Milwaukie, Oregon service station 1947


“They got the plane to Troutdale, dismantled it, put it on trucks, and then went to get permits to bring it to Milwaukie. The authorities refused because the shipment was too high, too long, and everything was wrong,” Punky said. By that time, however, Art Lacey was so far in debt that there was no turning back.

“Dad hired a motorcycle escort, the same kind used for funerals,” Punky recalled. “The guys were dressed in black leather and started out in the middle of the night with two teenagers riding along. He told the teenagers that if the police showed up, they were to immediately “burn rubber” in the opposite direction so the police would chase them. He told the truck drivers to keep going no matter what happened even agreeing to pay any tickets they might incur as a result.

Punky said her dad didn’t run into any issues with the police that night, but she does remember hearing about a tipsy driver who probably got the scare of his life.
“McLoughlin Boulevard was a two-lane highway at the time and there was some guy who had been drinking,” she said. “He saw this airplane coming at him in the middle of the night and thought he had driven onto a runway. He cranked the wheel of his car and drove off into the ditch as the Lacey Lady entourage sped by.”

Lacey Lady Service Station throughout the years from 1947 to the mid 90’s


The B-17 bomber made it to the site of the Lacey’s new service station, but it’s hard to keep something that large a secret for long! Local officials did come after Art Lacey for not having permits, but at the same time the Oregon Journal newspaper wrote an article with the headline “Local Government tries to keep bomber from final resting place. As it was only a few years after the war ended, patriotism was running very high and the city didn’t want the additional bad press. The local government fined Art Lacey but Judge Thiessen, of Thiessen Road located in Oregon’s Clackamas County only set the fine at $10.00. Ten dollars to Lacey was a great price for the unpermitted move and “The Bomber” was now at rest!

“The Oregon Journal wrote up an article to the effect of, ‘Local government tries to keep bomber from final resting place,’” Punky said. “This was right after World War II, so patriotism was running pretty high. They ended up fining him $10 and the plane has been in the area ever since.”

The Foundation sincerely thanks the news department at Portland’s ABC affiliate, KATU television, for conducting this interview. The transcript has been edited for length and to facilitate reading. ©2010 Bomber Complex, Inc.

Watch the video: Dr Peppa vs Bomber B. Peppa and Bomber B, Roblox Piggy Funny Animation (January 2022).