Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress
Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress
On July 28, 1935, a four-engine plane took off from Boeing Field in south Seattle on its first flight. Rolling out of the Boeing hangar, it was simply known as the Model 299. Seattle Times reporter Richard Smith dubbed the new plane, with its many machine-gun mounts, the “Flying Fortress,” a name that Boeing quickly adopted and trademarked. The U.S. Army Air Corps designated the plane as the B-17.
In response to the Army’s request for a large, multiengine bomber, the prototype, financed entirely by Boeing, went from design board to flight test in less than 12 months.
The B-17 was a low-wing monoplane that combined aerodynamic features of the XB-15 giant bomber, still in the design stage, and the Model 247 transport. The B-17 was the first Boeing military aircraft with a flight deck instead of an open cockpit and was armed with bombs and five .30-caliber machine guns mounted in clear “blisters.”
The first B-17s saw combat in 1941, when the British Royal Air Force took delivery of several B-17s for high-altitude missions. As World War II intensified, the bombers needed additional armament and armor.
The B-17E, the first mass-produced model Flying Fortress, carried nine machine guns and a 4,000-pound bomb load. It was several tons heavier than the prototypes and bristled with armament. It was the first Boeing airplane with the distinctive — and enormous — tail for improved control and stability during high-altitude bombing. Each version was more heavily armed.
In the Pacific, the planes earned a deadly reputation with the Japanese, who dubbed them “four-engine fighters.” The Fortresses were also legendary for their ability to stay in the air after taking brutal poundings.
Seventy-five years after the B-17’s first flight, an 88 year-old veteran sent The Boeing Company a letter. After explaining how he returned to England after a bombing raid over Germany with 179 flak holes and only two out of the four engines, he wrote: “I’m glad to be alive. Thank you for making such a good airplane.”
Gen. Carl Spaatz, the American air commander in Europe, said, “Without the B-17 we may have lost the war.”
Boeing Plant 2 built a total of 6,981 B-17s in various models, and another 5,745 were built under a nationwide collaborative effort by Douglas and Lockheed (Vega). Only a few B-17s survive today, featured at museums and air shows; most were scrapped at the end of the war.
- Crew: 10: Pilot, co-pilot, navigator, bombardier/nose gunner, flight engineer/top turret gunner, radio operator, waist gunners (2), ball turret gunner, tail gunner
- Length: 74 ft 4 in (22.66 m)
- Wingspan: 103 ft 9 in (31.62 m)
- Height: 19 ft 1 in (5.82 m)
- Wing area: 1,420 sq ft (131.92 m2)
- Airfoil: NACA 0018 / NACA 0010
- Aspect ratio: 7.57
- Empty weight: 36,135 lb (16,391 kg)
- Loaded weight: 54,000 lb (24,500 kg)
- Max. takeoff weight: 65,500 lb (29,700 kg)
- Powerplant: 4 × Wright R-1820-97 “Cyclone” turbosupercharged radial engines, 1,200 hp (895 kW) each
- Maximum speed: 287 mph (249 kn, 462 km/h)
- Cruise speed: 182 mph (158 kn, 293 km/h)
- Range: 2,000 mi (1,738 nmi, 3,219 km) with 2,700 kg (6,000 lb) bombload
- Service ceiling: 35,600 ft (10,850 m)
- Rate of climb: 900 ft/min (4.6 m/s)
- Wing loading: 38.0 lb/sq ft (185.7 kg/m2)
- Power/mass: 0.089 hp/lb (150 W/kg)
- Guns: 13 × .50 in (12.7 mm) M2 Browning machine guns in 8 positions (2 in the Bendix chin turret, 2 on nose cheeks, 2 staggered waist guns, 2 in upper Sperry turret, 2 in Sperry ball turret in belly, 2 in the tail and one firing upwards from radio compartment behind bomb bay)
- Short range missions (<400 mi): 8,000 lb (3,600 kg)
- Long range missions (≈800 mi): 4,500 lb (2,000 kg)
- Overload: 17,600 lb (7,800 kg)