The iconic Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress served the Allied cause around the globe during World War II. Perhaps most famous as the workhorse of the Eighth Air Force's bombing campaign against Germany and occupied territories, the B-17 became legendary for its ability to take punishment and return with its crew. The B-17 design took form as the Boeing Model 299 and first flew in 1935. It was continuously refined and improved based on lessons learned in battle over the ensuing years, culminating in the B-17G. Some B-17s continued in various civil roles, particularly as fire bombers, in the post-war years.

A total of 12,726 of Boeing's long-range bombers were built by the end of the war. Much of this production occurred at Boeing Plant 2 in Seattle (6,981), with the rest built under license by Lockheed (2,750, under the name Vega), and Douglas (2,995). Wartime B-17s carried a crew of 10 and were armed with 10 (up to 13 on later G models) .50-caliber machine guns.

The Museum’s B-17F, serial number 42-29782, has a long flying history. It began life here in Seattle at Boeing's Plant 2, a mile north of The Museum of Flight, on February 13, 1943. Delivered to the U.S. Army Air Forces at Wright Field, Ohio, the plane was immediately modified in Wyoming and then assigned to training units at Blythe Field and McClellan Field, both in California. A month later, it worked its way back to Washington, flying training flights at Moses Lake. During one such flight in September 1943, the right main wheel came off and the aircraft spent some time in the shop with damage to the right wing and engines #3 and #4.

During April to May 1944, the aircraft flew outside the United States, to a destination (thought to be Great Britain) and purpose unknown. The B-17 returned to Drew Field in Florida through the end of the war. In March 1945, it was designated a TB-17, or trainer aircraft.

On November 5, 1945, it was withdrawn from service and shipped to Altus, Oklahoma, for disposal. There, 42-29782 sat until 1946, when the War Assets Administration transferred the airplane to Stuttgart, Arkansas, for display as a War Memorial. Stripped of its turrets, guns, and other war-making items, it nested in a small park for the next five years, with "Great White Bird" painted on its noise. The plane sat derelict until 1953, when the aircraft was sold to the Biegert brothers of Shickley, Nebraska. The plane was eventually completely overhauled into flying condition and converted to an aerial sprayer and fire bomber, with civil registration N17W. It was then leased to Central Aircraft and flown out of Yakima, Washington for several years. In 1961, the plane was sold to Globe Air, which used N17W as a tanker through 1968. That was when our plane started its illustrious movie career.

Appearing in the movie The Thousand Plane Raid in 1968, N17W saw its first action in what would be three Hollywood features. The film Tora Tora Tora in 1969 came next. N17W’s acting career ended in 1989 with the movie Memphis Belle. This final movie, shot on location in England, required more than 50 hours of flying time. In order for the director to give the illusion of many B-17s in a single scene, the plane was painted with one scheme on the left side and a different scheme on the right.

In between movie stints, from 1968 to 1985, the aircraft continued flying for Globe Air, performing spraying, firefighting, and tanker jobs. In 1985, Seattle businessman and then-Museum of Flight trustee Robert Richardson acquired the B-17. Over time, top and bottom turrets were installed and the plane became based at The Museum of Flight. After its work with the Memphis Belle film shoot in England, the B-17 came back to the Museum for good and a thorough restoration began in 1991.

In 1998, the B-17F, newly christened Boeing Bee and registered NL17W, flew from Renton, Washington to Boeing Field for permanent display at The Museum of Flight. It is considered the finest B-17 restoration in the world, completely authentic with all components except guns fully functional.

Serial Number:
42-29782
Registration:
N17W
Wingspan:
103.75ft
Length:
75ft
Height:
19ft
Wing Area:
1 420.00ft²
Empty Weight:
35,728lbs
Gross Weight:
48,720lbs
Maximum Speed:
325mph
Range:
4,420miles

The iconic Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress served the Allied cause around the globe during World War II. Perhaps most famous as the workhorse of the Eighth Air Force's bombing campaign against Germany and occupied territories, the B-17 became legendary for its ability to take punishment and return with its crew. The B-17 design took form as the Boeing Model 299 and first flew in 1935. It was continuously refined and improved based on lessons learned in battle over the ensuing years, culminating in the B-17G. Some B-17s continued in various civil roles, particularly as fire bombers, in the post-war years.

A total of 12,726 of Boeing's long-range bombers were built by the end of the war. Much of this production occurred at Boeing Plant 2 in Seattle (6,981), with the rest built under license by Lockheed (2,750, under the name Vega), and Douglas (2,995). Wartime B-17s carried a crew of 10 and were armed with 10 (up to 13 on later G models) .50-caliber machine guns.

The Museum’s B-17F, serial number 42-29782, has a long flying history. It began life here in Seattle at Boeing's Plant 2, a mile north of The Museum of Flight, on February 13, 1943. Delivered to the U.S. Army Air Forces at Wright Field, Ohio, the plane was immediately modified in Wyoming and then assigned to training units at Blythe Field and McClellan Field, both in California. A month later, it worked its way back to Washington, flying training flights at Moses Lake. During one such flight in September 1943, the right main wheel came off and the aircraft spent some time in the shop with damage to the right wing and engines #3 and #4.

During April to May 1944, the aircraft flew outside the United States, to a destination (thought to be Great Britain) and purpose unknown. The B-17 returned to Drew Field in Florida through the end of the war. In March 1945, it was designated a TB-17, or trainer aircraft.

On November 5, 1945, it was withdrawn from service and shipped to Altus, Oklahoma, for disposal. There, 42-29782 sat until 1946, when the War Assets Administration transferred the airplane to Stuttgart, Arkansas, for display as a War Memorial. Stripped of its turrets, guns, and other war-making items, it nested in a small park for the next five years, with "Great White Bird" painted on its noise. The plane sat derelict until 1953, when the aircraft was sold to the Biegert brothers of Shickley, Nebraska. The plane was eventually completely overhauled into flying condition and converted to an aerial sprayer and fire bomber, with civil registration N17W. It was then leased to Central Aircraft and flown out of Yakima, Washington for several years. In 1961, the plane was sold to Globe Air, which used N17W as a tanker through 1968. That was when our plane started its illustrious movie career.

Appearing in the movie The Thousand Plane Raid in 1968, N17W saw its first action in what would be three Hollywood features. The film Tora Tora Tora in 1969 came next. N17W’s acting career ended in 1989 with the movie Memphis Belle. This final movie, shot on location in England, required more than 50 hours of flying time. In order for the director to give the illusion of many B-17s in a single scene, the plane was painted with one scheme on the left side and a different scheme on the right.

In between movie stints, from 1968 to 1985, the aircraft continued flying for Globe Air, performing spraying, firefighting, and tanker jobs. In 1985, Seattle businessman and then-Museum of Flight trustee Robert Richardson acquired the B-17. Over time, top and bottom turrets were installed and the plane became based at The Museum of Flight. After its work with the Memphis Belle film shoot in England, the B-17 came back to the Museum for good and a thorough restoration began in 1991.

In 1998, the B-17F, newly christened Boeing Bee and registered NL17W, flew from Renton, Washington to Boeing Field for permanent display at The Museum of Flight. It is considered the finest B-17 restoration in the world, completely authentic with all components except guns fully functional.

Serial Number:
42-29782
Registration:
N17W
Wingspan:
103.75ft
Length:
75ft
Height:
19ft
Wing Area:
1 420.00ft²
Empty Weight:
35,728lbs
Gross Weight:
48,720lbs
Maximum Speed:
325mph
Range:
4,420miles