Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress

Staying with the theme of aviation in the Southwest, all of the following Flying Forts have some connection with the area.

B-17G-55-BO 42-102715

    Black Hills Aviation operated B-17s from Alamogordo Airport in New Mexico for many years.    Some of the photos in this series were taken by me at Alamogordo between 1976 and 1980.   I must apologize for the quality, as most were shot on the archaic C126 format and the old Instamatic cameras did not provide the best quality.  But they were cheap...

    This aircraft flew as N66573, (Black Hills Aviation number 10) until she crashed in Montana during July, 1979.  The second photo shows her with the Sacramento Mountains in the background, the area she usually worked during the fire season. 

    This series shows the red wing tip markings carried by all aircraft, the bombay area with the slurry discharge and the Wright R-1820 engines that powered the B-17.

B-17G-90-BO 43-38635

B-17G 43-38635 B-17G 43-38635
B-17G Flying Fortress
B-17G B-17G 43-38635

    Carrying the markings of the 94th Bomb Group, "Virgin's Delight" is on display at the Castle Air Museum in Atwater, CA in August, 1989.  The 94th BG had been commanded by Col. Frederick Walker Castle prior to his command of the 4th Combat Bomb Wing and promotion to Brigadier General.  On December 24, 1944 General Castle was killed while leading an Air Division of B-17s over Liege, Belgium.  He was awarded the Medal of Honor for this mission and Castle AFB was later named in his honor.
I first visited Castle AFB with a friend in August, 1989, photographed the museum and aircraft of the 93rd Bomb Wing. The 93rd is long gone and my friend passed away in January, 2017. I finally returned in September, 2019 and  happily found that things were as I remembered tehm. This is still a great museum and enjoyable to visit. (CB)

B-17G-50-DL 44-6393

B-17G 44-6393

B-17G 44-6393 at March ARB in September, 2019
B-17G 44-6393 "Starduster" at MARCH ARB
                September, 2019
     Shown on display at the
March Field Museum in August, 1989 6393 was going through a major restoration.  By March, 2007 that restoration was complete.  In 2014 she received a new paint scheme and rechristened "Starduster", the name she carried when used as a personal transport for General Ira Eaker.  By September, 2019 she had been repainted in a silver scheme. (CB)

B-17G-85-DL 44-83512

B-17G 44-83512

    Displayed on the parade ground at Lackland AFB, many an Air Force Recruit has paraded in front of this B-17 over the years.  This photo was taken on a rainy miserable day in May, 1980.  (CB)

B-17G-85-DL  44-83514

    44-83514 is registered as N9323Z and flown by the Arizona Wing of the Confederate (sorry, now that is "Commemorative") Air Force out of Mesa, Arizona.  A star at many airshows, she is shown here at Biggs Army Airfield in the late 1980s and at War Eagles Air Museum, Santa Teresa, NM during September, 2007.  "Sentimental Journey" is operated by the Arizona Wing of the CAF and is based at Falcon Field in Mesa, AZ. (CB)

B-17G-85-DL 44-83525

B-17G 44-83525

    Sporting the registration N83525 that matches the last digits of her serial, 525 is shown arriving at the  March, 1980 Davis-Monthan open house.  Sold to Kermit Weeks in 1985 she was nearly destroyed by Hurricane Andrew in August, 1992 and is still (2022) awaiting restoration in Florida.  (CB)

B-17G-85-DL 44-83546

    B-17G 44-83546 operated by TBM inc. (#68) as N3703G until 1981.  She is now part of the Military Aircraft Restoration Corporation.   Photographed at ELP in 1980.   (Bill Spidle)

B-17G-85-DL 44-83575

    N93012 arriving at the Santa Teresa, New Mexico airport for a visit to the War Eagles Air Museum on April 15, 2009.  This aircraft has a long and varied career.  After entering service and conversion to a lifeboat carrying SB-17G this Flying Fortress has survived everything from being nuked*, to a long career as a fire bomber and even a disastrous crash.  She now flies as Nine-O-Nine with the Collings Foundation.  Unfortunately she was destroyed with seven fatalities at the Bradley International Airport, Windsor Locks, CT on 2 October, 2019. The aircraft was almost entirely consumed in the post crash fire (more details will be added as they become available).  (CB)

    * 575 was used as a test subject during a three nuclear shots in the Operation Tumbler-Snapper series in 1953.   The aircraft suffered damage severe enough to be considered a write-off.  After a "cooling off" period she was offered for sale in 1964.  On May 14, 1965 she was flown from Yucca Flats, NV to Mesa, AZ.  It was not until 1975 that 575 joined the tanker fleet where she served until 1985. Destroyed 2019.

B-17G-90-DL 44-83684

B-17G 44-83864 at Ontario, CA
B-17G 44-83684 B-17G 44-83684 at Planes Of Fame September 2019
B-17G 44-83684
B-17G 44-83684
B-17G 44-83684
B-17G 44-83684

    83684 has been with the Planes of Fame Air Museum at Chino, CA for many years and prior to that at the Ontario, CA airport..  Christened "Picadilly Lily II" she was one of the stars of the 1960s television show Twelve O'clock High.  The first photo shows her still carrying her registration of N3713G when based at The Planes of Fame museum at Ontario. Within a few years the museum moved to Chino.  Why does this photo look like it was taken by a child? Well, it was! I took this picture when my I visited the museum with my dad in June, 1970. I had seen the airplane at Biggs AFB when I was about ten and had fond memories of that. So I took a bad photograph with a Kodak Brownie when I had a chance. When the next two photos were taken in March, 2007 she was in the midst of a long term restoration that is still ongoing as of September, 2019.  The final five pictures were taken in September, 2019 and the work is progressing slowly, but it is progress never the less. (CB)

B-17G-95-DL 44-83814

    B-17G 44-83814-95-DL was operated by Black Hills Aviation as N66571 (#09).  After retirement she went to the National Air and Space Museum and was stored at Dulles for a number of years. B-17G-95-DL 44-83814, which had at one time been # 09 (N66571) with Black Hills Aviation.  This photo was taken when she was stored at the Pima Air & Space Museum in Tucson during the early 1980s, before she was flown to Dulles to become part of the National Air & Space Museum.  In 2009 she was shipped to the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum in a trade with the National Museum of the United States Air Force.  In return the NASM will eventually get "Shoo Shoo Shoo Baby" and the NMUSAF got "The Swoose".  (CB) 

B-17G-95-DL 44-83872

B-17G 44-83872 Texas Rebel

    44-83872, is another CAF bird.  She is operated as N7227C and has been another great airshow bird.  The single wheeled flyby is part of the "Tora, Tora, Tora" routine put on at many airshows, in this case the 1981 Amigo Airshow in ELP.  Texas Raiders finally got back in the air on October 14, 2009 after a seven year rebuild to address an FAA Airworthiness Directive relating to B-17 wing spars.  This has been a long awaited event!  (CB) Sadly, Texas Raiders was destroyed in a mid-air collision with P-63F 43-11719  [N6763] Saturday 12 November, 2022 during the Wings Over Dallas airshow resulting in the deaths of six individuals. They are identified by the B-17 Texas Raiders org as: Terry Barker of Keller, TX; Craig Hutain of Montgomery, TX; Kevin K5 Michels of Austin, TX; Dan Ragan of Dallas, TX; Leonard Root of Ft Worth, TX; Curt Rowe of Hilliard,OH. A preliminary report by the NTSB was released at the end of November, 2022, but it will be some time before the investigation is complete and a final report issued.


B-17G-100-VE 44-85599

     This B-17G-100-VE (44-85599) sat derelict at the Abilene, Texas airport for many years before being restored as 42-38133 and placed on display at Dyess AFB Linear Airpark.  This is a great outdoor airpark with many well restored and displayed aircraft.  Unfortunately, due to the current heightened state of alert the airpark is currently closed to visitors.  (CB)

B-17G-105-VE 44-85718

B-17G 44-85718

B-17G 44-85718

   Part of the Lone Star Flight Museum and registered as N900RW, 718 is another airworthy example.  Named "Thunderbird" it is a common sight at airshows.  She is seen in the above photos at the Dyess AFB open house in May, 2008.  (CB)

B-17G-105-VE 44-85734

B-17G 44-85734

 Owned and operated by the Liberty Foundation "Liberty Belle" is seen at the 2005 Luke AFB open house.  Sadly, "Liberty Belle" was destroyed by fire on 13 June, 2011.  There was however happily no loss of life.  (CB)

B-17G-105-VE 44-85738

B-17G 44-85738 "Preston's Pride" Tulare,

B-17G 44-85738 at Mefford Field, Tulare,

This airplane has been on display at Tulare, CA since flying into the Mefford Field on August 4, 1958. Sponsored by AMVETS (American Veterans) Chapter 56 she has had her ups and downs. In 1971 she was moved from this site before returning in 1981. At one time she was hit by an errant truck, ravaged by vandals and stripped of an interior, but in the last few years she has had some TLC applied that at least cosmetically improved her appearance. After delivery she was known as "Preston's Pride", today she carries the markings of the 58th Wing. The Fortress was a drone director aircraft during the atom bomb tests at Bikini Atoll and continued in testing until retired. The series of photos were taken during September, 2019. (CB)

B-17G-105-VE 44-85778

B-17G 44-85778

B-17B 44-85778 N3509G at Palm Springs in March

    "Miss Angela" seen basking in the sun outside her home at the Palm Springs Air Museum on a nice spring day in March, 2007.  And undergoing maintenance in March, 2013

B-17G-110-VE 44-85813

    B-17G-110-VE 44-85813, which operated as N6694C (#12) until crashing in April 1980.  Parts of her remains have gone to other B-17 restorations.

B-17G-110-VE 44-85828

B-17G 44-85828

    This Flying Fortress had been operated by Black Hills and Aeroflite inc. among others before being restored and placed on display as 42-31892 "I'll be around" in the 390th Bomb Group Association building at the Pima Air & Space museum.  This aircraft is immaculate inside and out, surely one of the best restored B-17s.  The best single word I can think of is gorgeous, like a beautiful woman.  Anyone visiting Tucson should take the time to tour Pima and view this airplane.  (CB)

    And a few Flying Forts that are outside of the Southwest...

B-17D 40-3097

B-17D 40-3097 "The Swoose"

    "The Swoose" is the oldest surviving B-17 and believed to be the only AAF aircraft to serve from the beginning of America's entry into WW II until VJ day.  The aircraft is currently (August, 2009) under restoration at the National Museum of the United StatesAir Force, which is expected to take several years.  (CB)

B-17F-10-BO 41-24485

B-17F 41-24485 Memphis Belle

    The "Memphis Belle" is often stated to be the first B-17 to safely complete twenty five missions in the ETO.  While that feat is disputed she is still an important artifact and is treated almost with reverence.  This is another airframe that will require a great investment of time and resources to restore.  As the artwork had been repainted several time over the years, the first time being during War Bond tours during WW II,  so it will be striped and repainted during final restorations.  In these August, 2009 photos there is still a long way to go.  There has been some talk of placing this B-17 on display at the NMUSAF and finishing restoration while on exhibit.  (CB)

B-17F-70-BO 42-29782

B-17F 42-19782

    This B-17F named "Boeing Bee" was photographed at Boeing Field near Seattle, WA in October, 1999.  (CB)

B-17G-35-BO 42-32076

B-17G 42-32076 Shoo Shoo Shoo Baby

    "Shoo Shoo Shoo Baby"  is another veteran of combat.  She was discovered in France after have been abandoned for years and was transported to Dover AFB in 1978 where volunteers spent the next ten years breathing life into her.  In 1988 she was flown to the Air Force Museum.  During her service in World War Two she sported a natural metal finish, but due to the many areas that needed reskinning a decision was made to paint her in olive drab over neutral gray for display.  In the near future she will move to the National Air and Space Museum for display.  The above photos were taken in August, 2009.  (CB)

B-17G-85-DL 44-83546

    This B-17 played the part of "Memphis Belle" in the 1989 movie of the same name.   She is seen during March, 2013 while on a fuel stop in El Paso while on a trip to the West coast.  (CB)

B-17G-85-DL 44-83559

B-17G 44-83559
B-17G 44-83559

    Displayed outdoors for many years at the Strategic Air Command Museum at Offutt AFB 559 came indoors and was restored when the museum moved to Ashland, NE and became the Strategic Air and Space Museum.  The first photo was taken in October, 1995 prior to the move.  The balance of the photos give a good idea of the work put into bring the bomber back to her prime.  (CB)

B-17G-95-DL 44-83690
B-17G 44-83690

    Named Miss Liberty Belle, 690 is displayed at the Grissom Air Museum.  Though displayed outdoors she appears to be structurally sound in the August, 2009 photos.  In late 2015 she was relocated to the Museum of Aviation, Robins AFB, Georgia.   (CB)

                                                                                                B-17G-95-DL  44-83868

B-17G 44-8368 RAF Hendon
B-17G RAF Hendon

   The  RAF Museum at Hendon has B-17G 44-83868 displayed among a number of other important airplanes. With in the halls of the museum are a B-25, B-24, Lancaster, Vulcan and the remains of a Halifax B Mk.II (W1048) recovered from Lake Hoklingen in Norway.  This museum along with its sister museum at RAF Cosford is one of the world's great aviation museums and are among my personal favorites.  (CB)

B-17G-110-VE 44-85829

B-17G 44-85829

    With the background of trees and clouds "Yankee Lady" looks like she could be at any bomber base in England during 1944.  In reality she is at here home at the Yankee Air Museum in Yipsilanti, MI in June, 1996.  Registered as N3193G she is another active airshow participant.  (CB)

B-17G Bomb Bay
B-17G main wheel wellB-17G main wheel wellB-17G main wheel wellB-17G main wheel well

B-17G number 3 engine

B-17 Firewall

B-17G Cheyenne tail turret
B-17s in flight.

    A pair of B-17s in their natural element.

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Page created 05-23-2002

Modified 12-03-2022

Clifford Bossie