Saying Farewell To Another B-17 And Its Crew

The harsh reality of keeping historical airplanes airworthy and flying is that from time to time one will crash. Thus it was that on October 2nd a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress crash-landed after technical troubles. Incidentally, this is the very same airplane which we covered only a number of days ago. Painted to look like another B-17 of WWII (Nine-o-Nine, variant B-17G-30-BO), this late-model B-17G-85-DL aircraft wasn’t finished in time to join World War II, but instead spent its 74 years being a flying museum to these amazing airplanes.

Details about the cause of the crash are still scarce, but from radio communication between the crew and tower, it’s understood the B-17 was having having issues with the number 4 engine, which was seen sputtering and smoking by a witness. The airplane’s pilots tried to perform an emergency landing at Bradley International Airport, Connecticut, where it had taken off from only moments ago. Unfortunately the aircraft ran off the runway and struck a building, after which it burst into flames. The NTSB has indicated that they have dispatched a team to investigate the crash, and say that a preliminary report is likely two weeks away.

Of the thirteen people on board, seven died, with the remaining six surviving with injuries. One person on the ground was injured as well. The vintage bomber (civilian registration number N93012) has been all but completely destroyed in the fire, with only a section of the wing and tail remaining recognizable.

We feel terrible about such loss of life and hope the injured make a speedy recovery. The loss of yet another B-17 is also tough to swallow, as this leaves just ten airworthy B-17s. How long until we say farewell to this part of our history, with the final flight of a B-17, or its kin?

(Thanks to Pez for this update)

A Virtual Tour Of The B-17

The Boeing B-17 “Flying Fortress” is arguably the most recognizable aircraft of the Second World War. Made infamous by the daring daylight strategic bombing runs they carried out over Germany, more than 12,000 of these four-engined bombers were produced between 1939 and 1945. Thanks to the plane’s renowned survivability in battle, approximately 60% of them made it through the war and returned home to the United States, only to be rounded up in so-called “boneyards” where they were ultimately cut up and sold as scrap. Today there are fewer than 50 intact Boeing B-17s left in the world, and of those, only 11 remain airworthy.

One of them is Nine-O-Nine, a B-17G built in April 7, 1945. This particular aircraft was built too late to see any combat, although in the 1950s she was fitted with various instruments and exposed to three separate nuclear blasts for research purposes. It’s actually not the real Nine-O-Nine either, the original was scrapped after it completed eighteen bombing runs over Berlin. Without a combat record of its own, this bomber was painted to look like the real Nine-O-Nine in honor of its incredible service record of never losing a crewman.

Since 1986, Nine-O-Nine has been owned by the Collings Foundation, who operate her as a living history exhibit. The bomber flies around the United States with an entourage of similarly iconic WWII aircraft as part of the Wings of Freedom Tour, stopping by various airports and giving the public a chance to climb aboard and see the pinnacle of mid-1940s strategic bombing technology. History buffs with suitably deep pockets can even book a seat on one of the scheduled 30-minute flights that take place at every stop on the Tour.

I was lucky enough to have the The Wings of Freedom Tour pass through my area recently, and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to experience this incredible aircraft first hand. The fact that I’m equal parts a coward and miser kept me from taking a ride aboard the 74 year old Nine-O-Nine, at least for now, but I made sure to take plenty of pictures from inside this lovingly restored B-17G while it was safely on the ground.

Continue reading “A Virtual Tour Of The B-17”

The Design And Construction Of A Tribute To A Bomber Pilot

Decades ago, [wilmracer]’s grandfather was piloting a B-17 over the Rhine, and as it goes, aviation runs in families. Now, more than 70 years later [wilmracer] is deep, deep into remote controlled aircraft, and he’s building an exacting scale model of the B-17G his grandfather flew on his last bombing mission over Europe.

This is a scratch build, with the design taken directly from the plans and schematics of a B-17. [wilmracer] has already paid the money to go up in the preserved B-17 Aluminum Overcast to get a better idea of the layout, and now he’s deep into cutting foam and bending balsa sheets. The first part of the build was arguably the hardest, and the main landing gear was expertly constructed out of aluminum tube and linear servos. The horizontal stab follows traditional building techniques of foam and carefully sanded balsa sheets. The fuselage is impressive, with the formers built out of foam, and eventually covered in 1/16″ balsa and wrapped in fiberglass.

If you’re going to do a large-scale model airplane, that also means you’ve got to do detailing. That means steam gauges rendered in 3D printed parts. [wilmracer] is modeling the cockpit and the machine guns in 1:9 scale. This is going to be an awesome build, and yes, there will eventually be plans.

Of course, this isn’t the biggest small B-17 ever built. That record goes to the 1:3 scale Bally Bomber, a real, not remote controlled plane built over the course of two decades by [ Jack Bally]. This is a real plane with a 34 foot wingspan that weighs 1800 pounds. Yes, it flies, and it went to Oshkosh last summer. Remote control really is the way to go with something like this, though: you can appease the rivet counters, put more power on the props, and you don’t need to worry too much about pesky things like regulations and laws. We’re looking forward to see where this project goes, and to the sound of a great PLA overcast thundering over the treetops.

Bally’s Bomber – A 1/3rd Replica Of A B-17G

bally bomber

One of our tipsters just sent us this fascinating story about The Bally Bomber, a single man’s huge undertaking that started back in 1999. It’s a 1/3rd scale version of the B-17G Bomber — and no, it’s not remote controlled, there will be a pilot.

Not familiar with the B-17G? What about its trade name? It’s called the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress. This massive bomber was developed back in the 1930’s for the United States Army Air Corps as a combination between the Boeing 247 transport plane and the experimental Boeing XB-15 Bomber.

8680 of the B-17G model were built, but as of September 2011, only 13 of the entire B-17 family remain airworthy. The Bally Bomber is the only known scale replica, and looking through the progress photos it is an absolutely jaw-dropping project. It hasn’t been test flown yet, but they are getting painfully close to its maiden flight.

For more information, you can also check out their Facebook page which seems to be updated on a regular basis.

[Thanks Ryan!]