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Aviation History And Aircraft Photography

B-17 — The Flying Fortress Survivors
Airworthy Flying Forts


‘And then there were ten...’ Long live the memory of the Liberty Belle. She was active for only 6 years since being restored, but what a magnificient six those were.

There are few creations of technology as majestic as a 4-engine heavy bomber in flight. They are little more than bits of aluminum, fabric, 72 pistons, and a dozen propeller blades all moving through the sky in loose formation. The only thing that comes close is a steam locomotive with all of its moving parts on the outside of the machine. But a locomotive will never fly, and can never spark one's imagination to shoot for the stars like a B-17 Flying Fortress.

Built mostly over 3 years from mid-1942 to mid-1945, these four engine heavy bombers once filled the skies. Workers across the US built 12,731 B-17's, 19,258 B-24's, and 3,960 B-29's. They are all but gone today, with only one B-29 still flying and three B-24's still airworthy. The B-17, however fared a little better. Many saw post-WWII action as transports, passenger craft, sprayers, and water bombers. While this service was not as glamorous, it kept the Flying Fortress lineage alive and in the air. As a result, there are 15 B-17 Flying Fortresses still airworthy, plus a few other hulks that have a realistic chance of being restored.

Boeing B-17 Bomber Boeing B-17 Bomber Boeing B-17 Bomber

Someone once said that a B-17 operates on gas, oil, and money. Especially money. A B-17 will easily burn 200 gallons of fuel per hour, plus about 10 gallons of oil per hour. Consumables and wear items cost an estimated $3,000 per flight hour. For each hour a Flying Fortress spends in the air, ten are spent on the ground in maintenance. An engine overhaul can cost $40,000, and FAA required wing-spar inspections and repairs will cost each Flying Fortress in excess of $100,000. The Collings Foundation's Nine'O'Nine overran the runway in Beaver Falls, PA, a number of years back. The EAA's Aluminum Overcast had her landing gear collapse in 2004. Liberty Belle was once destroyed by a tornado. While each of these restoration projects are technical and financial marvels, the value of the volunteer work that goes into such a project is beyond imagination.

Operating a B-17 is more than what most any one person can do. As a result, most are owned by foundations or museums set up specifically to keep the Flying Fortress in the air. These organizations are partly funded by corporate donations and air show fees, but most depend on touring. A B-17 tour will take the Flying Fortress from city to city across the USA, where she will be on display for tours, and a lucky few have a chance to take a flight on the B-17. If you hear that a B-17 tour is stopping in your city, please do go check it out, contribute a few dollars, and consider taking a B-17 flight. I can promise it will be the thrill of a lifetime. Keep 'em flying...


B-17 Flying Fortress Active In The USA

Serial Number Aircraft Type Nickname City State Location Notes
42-29782 B-17F Boeing Bee Seattle WA Museum Of Flight Restored to flight, but currently in storage, may never fly again.
44-8543 B-17G Chuckie Virginia Beach VA Military Aviation Museum Moved from Texas in 2011.
44-83514 B-17G Sentimental Journey Mesa AZ Commemorative Air Force, Arizona Wing Displayed indoors, tours extensively.
44-83546 B-17G Memphis Belle Chino CA Military Aircraft Restoration Not the original Memphis Belle, on display in Geneseo, NY at 1941 HAG.
44-83563 B-17G Fuddy Duddy Santa Ana CA Lyon Air Museum Based at John Wayne Airport. Former National Warplane Museum aircraft.
44-83575 B-17G Nine-O-Nine Stow MA Collings Foundation Tours extensively with B-24.
44-83785 B-17G Evergreen
International
McMinnville OR Evergreen Aviation Museum Displayed indoors, in false markings of 44-85531.
44-83872 B-17G Texas Raiders Houston TX Confederate Air Force, Gulf Coast Wing Returned to flight status in 2009.
44-85718 B-17G Thunderbird Galveston TX Lone Star Flight Museum Displayed indoors, former Planes Of Fame aircraft.
44-85734 B-17G Liberty Belle Douglas GA Don Brooks, Liberty Foundation Flew for the first time in 2005 since being destroyed by a tornado in 1979. Destroyed by fire June 13, 2011, after a successful emergency landing.
44-85740 B-17G Aluminum Overcast Oshkosh WI Experimental Aviation Association Displayed indoors, tours extensively.
44-85778 B-17G Miss Angela Palm Springs CA Palm Springs Air Museum Displayed indoors, owned by Bob Pond.
44-85829 B-17G Yankee Lady Ypsilanti MI Yankee Air Force Aircraft remarkably saved from recent hangar fire.
Note—click on the Serial Number to see a photo of each airplane.

B-17 Flying Fortress Active Worldwide

Serial Number Aircraft Type Nickname City State Location Notes
44-8846 B-17G Pink Lady Paris France Forteresse Toujours Volante Flew in a French air show in 2005.
44-85784 B-17G Sally B Duxford UK Imperial War Museum Active in the UK.
Note—click on the Serial Number to see a photo of each airplane.

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Authored by John A. Weeks III, Copyright © 1996—2012, all rights reserved.
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