Friday, December 2, 2011

Iconic Planes: Boeing B-17 'Flying Fortress'

This page will tell you all about the Boeing B-17 'Flying Fortress', one of the most famous and recognized bomber in history.

The four-engine Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress was arguably the most famous and almost certainly the best-loved bomber of World War II. Funnily enough, the brilliant Boeing conception, first flown on July 28, 1935, was almost stifled by an agonizingly long gestation period that did not see the first production aircraft fly until June 27, 1939. Despite the airplane's superiority over all its twin-engine competitors, the American Congress had been unwilling to authorize the plane's purchase in quantity until war seemed certain. The basic elements of the cantilever, all-metal monoplane design of the Boeing B-17 dated all the way back to the Boeing Monomail of 1930. These design elements were successively developed through the B-9 "Death Angel" twin engine bomber and the revolutionary Model 247 transport. The big advance in the Boeing B-17 was the employment of four engines at a time when the words "multi-engine" in a specification meant "twin-engine."

The Boeing B-17C entered combat with the RAF, but was considered unsuccessful. A later version, the Boeing B-17D, entered the Pacific War on December 7, 1941. There followed a continuing succession of improved models: the B-17E, F, and G. Ultimately, 12,731 examples were built by Boeing, Lockheed (Vega), and Douglas.

The Boeing B-17 spearheaded the USAAF's doctrine that formations of heavily armed bombers could fight their way through enemy fighters and carry out their missions. The Boeing B-17 proved that this was so - but only at terrible cost in air battles, such as those over Schweinfurt and Regensburg, Germany. Fortunately, long-range fighters soon became available to escort the big, slow bombers to and from targets.

(Topmost): A B-17 coming in for landing. (Middle): A heavily damaged B-17 still managing to fly. This was one of its most amazing features. (Bottom): The ground crews who kept the B-17s armed and ready to fly.


  • Wingspan: 103 ft. 9 in.
  • Length: 74 ft. 4 in.
  • Height: 19 ft. 1 in.
  • Empty Weight: 36,135 lbs
  • Gross Weight: 65,500 lbs
  • Top Speed: 287 mph
  • Service Ceiling: 35,600 ft.
  • Range: 2,000 miles w/ 6,000 lbs of bombs
  • Engine/Horsepower: Four Wright R-1820s/1,200 each, with General Electric turbo-superchargers
  • Crew: 10
  • Armament: Thirteen .50-in. Browning machine guns pointing in all directions and up to 17,600 lbs of bombs.



  1. Any idea how many cylinders were there in each of the engines?

  2. Can you do a feature on all Boeing aircraft, both military and commercial? Thanks.