DescriptionThe Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress is a four-engined heavy bomber developed in the 1930s for the United States Army Air Corps (USAAC).
Competing against Douglas and Martin for a contract to build 200 bombers, the Boeing entry (prototype Model 299/XB-17) outperformed both competitors and exceeded the air corps' performance specifications. Although Boeing lost the contract (to the Douglas B-18 Bolo) because the prototype crashed, the air corps ordered 13 more B-17s for further evaluation. From its introduction in 1938, the B-17 Flying Fortress evolved through numerous design advances, becoming the third-most produced bomber of all time, behind the four-engined Consolidated B-24 Liberator and the multirole, twin-engined Junkers Ju 88.
The aircraft went through several alterations in each of its design stages and variants. Of the 13 YB-17s ordered for service testing, 12 were used by the 2nd Bomb Group of Langley Field, Virginia, to develop heavy bombing techniques, and the 13th was used for flight testing at the Material Division at Wright Field, Ohio. Experiments on this aircraft led to the use of a quartet of General Electric turbo-superchargers which would become standard on the B-17 line. A 14th aircraft, the YB-17A, originally destined for ground testing only and upgraded with the turbochargers, was redesignated B-17A after testing had finished.
As the production line developed, Boeing engineers continued to improve upon the basic design. To enhance performance at slower speeds, the B-17B was altered to include larger rudders and flaps. The B-17C changed from three bulged, oval-shaped gun blisters to two flush, oval-shaped gun window openings, and on the lower fuselage, a single "bathtub" gun gondola housing, which resembled the similarly configured and located Bodenlafette/"Bola" ventral defensive emplacement on the German Heinkel He 111P-series medium bomber.
For more details of the development, operational history and variants of the B-17, click here.
Specifications below are for the B-17G.
- Crew: 10: Pilot, co-pilot, navigator, bombardier/nose gunner, flight engineer/top turret gunner, radio operator, waist gunners (2), ball turret gunner, tail gunner
- 74 ft 4 in (22.66 m)
- 103 ft 9 in (31.62 m)
- 19 ft 1 in (5.82 m)
- Wing Area:
- 1,420 sq ft (131.92 sq m)
- Wing Loading:
- 38.0 lb/sq ft (185.7 kg/sq m)
- Empty Weight:
- 36,135 lb (16,391 kg)
- 65,500 lb (29,700 kg). Gross weight: 54,000 lb (24,500 kg)
- 4 × Wright R-1820-97 "Cyclone" turbosupercharged radial engines, 1,200 hp (895 kW) each
- Maximum speed: 287 mph (462 km/h, 249 kn)
- Cruise Speed:
- 182 mph (293 km/h, 158 kn)
- 2,000 mi (3,219 km, 1,738 nmi) with 6,000 lb (2,700 kg) bombload
- Rate of Climb:
- 900 ft/min (4.6 m/s)
- Service Ceiling:
- 35,600 ft (10,850 m)