|STANDARD DATA: Seats: 5; Gross weight: 49,650 lbs.; Empty weight: 30,620 lbs.; Fuel capacity: 1,700 gals.; Engines: four 1,200 hp Wright Cyclone radials.
PERFORMANCE: Top speed: 323 mph; Cruise speed: 250 mph; Climb to 25,000 ft.: 41 min.; Range: 3,400 nm; Ceiling: 37,000 ft.
The tremendously tough B-17 flew the 8th Air Force’s first combat mission out of England in August 1942. The British were skeptical about daylight bombing, but the American strategy was made possible by the ruggedness built into high-flying bombers like the B-17 and by the deadly accuracy of the Norden bombsight. Used as the spearhead of the U.S. Army Air Force’s attacks in Europe, the aircraft also saw combat duty in all theaters of war. Three days after Pearl Harbor, the Japanese convoys en route to Luzon in the Philippines were met by Flying Fortresses. Designed by Boeing in 1934, the four-engine bomber made its first flight in July 1935. The first model to see action was the B-17C, powered by nine-cylinder Wright Cyclone radial engines. Several versions of the basic B-17 were produced throughout the war, differing in armament, performance and gross weight. A total of 12,731 Flying Fortresses were built between 1935 and 1945.