Boeing B-17 “Flying Fortress,” perhaps the most readily recognized
bomber of the World War II era, will be center stage for its 75th
anniversary during EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2010, “The World’s
Greatest Aviation Celebration,” on July 26-August 1 at Wittman
Regional Airport in Oshkosh.
Only about 15 of the iconic aircraft
remain airworthy anywhere in the world, including EAA’s renowned “Aluminum
Overcast,” which brings aviation history to the public through its
annual national tours. Potentially, at least four B-17s could be present
at Oshkosh as the exact 75th-anniversary date of the B-17’s first
flight on July 28, 1935, comes during AirVenture.
“We are making the call to all B-17
owners to join us at Oshkosh this year for an unmatched celebration of
this 75th anniversary,” said Tom Poberezny, EAA president and
AirVenture chairman. “The B-17 is well-known to the public through its
military service, as well as through movie and television productions
made over the past 70 years. Nothing can match seeing and hearing these
magnificent airplanes in person, especially when a significant number
can gather in one place. The natural place for this celebration is
AirVenture, where this year we are also organizing a major national
Salute to Veterans program.”
A special schedule of flyovers and ground
programs will be part of the B-17 75th anniversary commemoration, along
with an evening program on Wednesday, July 28 – 75 years to the day of
the B-17’s first test flight. In addition, B-17s will participate in
the Warbirds shows on several days during AirVenture 2010.
According to Boeing Aircraft historians,
the B-17 went from its design as the Model 299 prototype to flight
testing in less than 12 months. The B-17 was a low-wing monoplane that
combined aerodynamic features of the XB-15 bomber 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. 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 tail for improved
control and stability during high-altitude bombing. Each version was
more heavily armed.
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). Most B-17s were
scrapped at the end of World War II. Some of the last Flying Fortresses
met their end as target drones in the 1960s – destroyed by
Boeing-built military missiles. EAA’s “Aluminum Overcast,”
fortunately, was saved from the scrap heap when it was originally
purchased as surplus for $750 in the mid-1940s.