Brief Overview of the B-17 Bomber

  1. B-17
  2. November 11, 2012 11:31 pm

The B-17 Bomber – a Brief overview

The B-17 bomber has been in the air since 1935. It weighed in the range of 36,000 pounds empty and had a flight range of 2,100 miles. The average air speed was about 300 miles per hour. This innovative design had steam roller construction and introduced piped oxygen for the crews as well as turbo super chargers for its air cooled engines.

The B-17 was a precision bomber at a maximum height of 30,000 feet or less but was definitely a combat plane at any level. The B-17 was designed to carry a bomb load of 3.5 tons, loaded and released in a perfectly stacked formation. The bomb load was made up of general purpose demolition bombs with an impact velocity of as much as 750 miles per hour which could not only pierce through armored plate, but destroy any factory or target on the ground.

Each B-17 bomber was designed to carry a crew of ten men, including the pilot, co-pilot, bombadier, navigator, engineer, tail gunner, waist gunner, radio man, photographer gunner, ball turret gunner and tail gunner. Together, the crew operated this war machine with a firepower of a dozen or more high rate 50 caliber machine guns. The ball turret gunner in the belly of the plane had the tightest area to work in. In fact, the area was so tight, that the brave soldier in this particular position could not wear a parachute because of the limited space.

Before each flight, the crew gathered for a briefing where they were told where they were going, (mission), the route to target, and where to drop the payload. Over 13,000 B-17 bombers were manufactured and over 9,000 of them were lost, 90% of those over Europe. It was certainly no treat to fly in these machines, as the temperature inside the cabin was about –60F and all of the men were dressed in flight suits which did not provide much warmth.

Most of the B-17 bombers flew in a pack of 18 planes, with an escort. During each briefing before flight, the crew was reminded that if they went down behind enemy lines that they were to destroy the plane and all equipment, and if captured, only to provide name rank and serial number.

One really interesting fact is that most of these planes were built by women, as all of the men overseas fighting. Women had the patience for all of the fine wiring details and special touches that made these planes dependable and solid. Women were happy to contribute to the war effort and building the B-17 gave them plenty of work to do while their men were away at war.


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