In response for the Army's request for a large, multiengine bomber, the B-17 (Model 299) 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 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. They sometimes limped back to their bases with large chunks of the fuselage shot off.
Boeing plants 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; most were scrapped at the end of the war. Some of the last Flying Fortresses met their end as target drones in the 1960s -- destroyed by Boeing Bomarc missiles.
|Wing Span 103 ft. 9 3/8 in.
Length 74 ft. 3.9 in.
Height 19 ft. 2.44 in.
Powerplant Wright R-1820-97 Cyclone 1,200 hp at takeoff
Empty Weight 36,134
Gross Weight 65,000 lbs.
Cruising Speed 160 mph
Top Speed 302 mph
Ceiling 36,400 ft.
Range 3750 miles
Fuel capacity 2,780 gallons carried in the wings
Fuel consumption 200 gallons per hour
Oil capacity 37 gallons per engine
Bomb Load 8000 lbs.
Armament 13 x .50 caliber machine guns