1941 Boeing B-17E Flying Fortress
s/n 2682 N12355
Boeing B-17E built in Seattle
This B-17E "Flying Fortress" is extremely rare, being one of the few Seattle built Boeing B-17's surviving to date. Most of the other surviving B-17's were built under license by either Lockheed or Douglas.
Structure: It is estimated that the structure is approximately 80% restored. The front fusealge including the nose and cockpit still need to be rebuilt.
Restoration work by Vintage Airframes.
This B-17E was flown to Washington State in 1998 for restoration. The workmanship to date is second to none. If completed to the same standards, it will be the finest B-17 restoration in the world.
The project is substantially complete with the correct engines and propellers.
The description and photos give a broad overview of the subject aircraft. Buyers are urged to inspect the aircraft for condition and completeness.
The Boeing Aircraft Company B-17E was the first of the Flying Fortress models that could be considered to be combat ready. Unlike previous models, the B-17E was equipped with two powered gun turrets with twin 0.50 caliber machine guns – one on the top of the fuselage and one in a ball turret configuration on the bottom of the fuselage (the latter was a change with the 113th “E” model and would have been on this B-17) – and twin, manually operated 0.50 caliber machine guns in the tail gunner position.
Known as the 299-O by Boeing, the “E” model was easily recognized by the enlarged tail section comprising larger vertical and horizontal surfaces plus the addition of a dorsal fin flaring ahead of the vertical stabilizer. In an interesting side story, the chief Army test pilot during the early work on the Honeywell auto pilot claims the testing highlighted the need for the strengthening of the tail.
The U.S. Army Air Forces (USAAF) ordered 277 of the eventual 512 B-17Es in August 1940, and the model flew for the first time on 5 September 1941. Boeing was almost 5 months late with the first B-17E, but finished the last aircraft 49 days ahead of schedule in May 1942. This B-17E dates from this last month of production.
The Aircraft Record Card shows a cost of $280,135.00 for the B-17 under contract W 535-ac-15677, however the government later applied a cost of $302,772 to the second batch of 235 B-17Es.
The USAAF accepted the B-17 on 16 May 1942 from Boeing’s plant in Seattle, WA.
21 May 1942 to Minneapolis
30 June 1942 to Wright Field
August 1942 in Minneapolis and at Wright
4 September 1942 to Minneapolis
27 October 1942 officially loaned to “Contr’s Plants” meaning Honeywell
10 November 1942 to Minneapolis
Honeywell had modified the Norden mechanical auto pilot in the second half of 1941 (referenced above in the quote from the USAAF test pilot), and using an earlier B-17 for testing had gained the confidence of the USAAF technical staff at Wright. Then, the engineers developed their own model of Automatic Flight Control Equipment (AFCE), the electronic C-1, which was installed in a B-17 at Boeing on 1 January 1942. Work on this model involved intensive efforts by Honeywell and the staff at Wright throughout 1942.
It appears that this B-17 was involved in the C-1 development work that took place in the second half of 1942 leading to the start of production in October.
5 March 1943 to Wright
10 March 1943 to Geiger Field
22 March 1943 to Minneapolis
15 May 1943 to Orlando Army Air Base
21 June 1943 to Midland Field
This series of assignments looks like the USAAF and Honeywell used this B-17 to test and demonstrate the Norden/C-1 combination during the period when the USAAF was deciding to standardize on the use of the C-1. Seven Mile Gunnery Range was affiliated with Geiger and perhaps this B-17 made practice drops that were more realistic than those in Minnesota, or not possible due to mid-western weather. The trip to Florida was important, because the Army Air Forces School of Applied Tactics was located at Orlando. The Army Air Forces Bombardier School (one of 12), located in Midland, is said to have been “instrumental in developing photographic and sonic methods of scoring bomb hits and analyzing bombing proficiency.”
It is also possible that these trips were part of the testing and demonstration of a modification to the C-1 called the Steering/Turn Control. This device was located in the upper left-hand corner of the auto pilot panel and allowed the pilot “to maneuver a properly banked turn while the airplane flew under automatic pilot without creating violent action.” Honeywell and the USAAF tested the Steering/Turn Control beginning in the fall of 1942. This feature was added to C-1s installed in B-29s of the 58th Bomb Wing.
This B-17 was accommodated in an enormous hangar built at Wold-Chamberlain field in Minneapolis and opened in September 1943. Honeywell’s corporate history claims that the hangar could handle 5 B-17s at one time. This B-17, known as “two-one-zero,” was used to test a number of other Honeywell products including the Formation Stick, electronic turbo -supercharger control system, blind landing equipment, and electronic capacitance fuel gauge. Some of this testing is revealed in the following summary from existing Flight Test Reports:
12, 16, 17, 19 November 1943 – obtain data on simulated instrument approaches and let-downs with airplane controlled by C1-Auto-pilot:
7 December 1943 – determine temperatures of aileron control cable and structural members along with aileron control cable tension at various altitudes:
31 August 1944 – tests to counteract carburetor icing using throttles and turbo boost controls; and
6 August 1945 – record performance of experimental overspeed control.
The same corporate history credits this B-17 with some 1,800 test flight hours during the war years. During the remainder of the war, the aircraft seems to have been at Minneapolis and, occasionally, at Wright. By September 1943, the aircraft was listed as an RB-17E in the entries on the Aircraft Record Card. The “R” designation was applied to aircraft not available for combat duty and all B-17Es were reclassified as such in late 1943.[vi]
27 November 1943 at Minneapolis with 1454th Base Unit (BU) of Air Transport Command
26 December 1943 at Minneapolis with Honeywell
3 January 1944 at Minneapolis with 1454th BU
30 May 1944 at Wright with 4000th BU of Air Technical Services Command (ATSC)
4 June 1944 at Minneapolis with Honeywell
It is conceivable that this B-17 played a role in the development of training material including the Walt Disney live and animated series of short films covering the C-1. Honeywell also maintained an Aeronautical School at Wold-Chamberlain Field and the B-17 may have been involved in demonstrations at this school.
The Aircraft Record Card is not clear on the date of the final disposition of this aircraft. There is a 12 November 1944 entry implying that the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC) had taken possession, however there is also a 29 October 1945 entry (the last on the Card) that is difficult to interpret. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) file on the aircraft sheds some light on this period, as the subsequent civilian owners had to obtain documentation in order to resell and export the aircraft.
The RFC’s Office of Surplus Property-Aircraft Division-Educational Disposal Section entered into an agreement with the Regents of the University of Minnesota (UM) on 10 July 1945 to donate this B-17 for instructional purposes. The agreement was clear that the aircraft was not to be flown and was to be “rendered completely unfit and useless” and “sold only as scrap” when the university was finished with it. It appears this started the process that led to the UM obtaining the aircraft.
A letter written in 1952 by the UM cites 25 September 1945 as the day the aircraft was donated to the university. An article in Honeywell’s internal newspaper mentions 5 September 1945 as the date of the last flight. Honeywell relinquished contractual control of the aircraft at 2:00 pm on 8 November 1945 at the Minneapolis Municipal Airport (Wold-Chamberlain Field). While it has not been possible to reconcile the July, September, and November dates, it appears that the donation to the university took shape over a period of several months in the latter half of 1945.
On 5 September 1945, Honeywell arranged for journalists to take a flight to Duluth and back. Star-Journal writer, Ben Holstrom, took control of the bomber utilizing the Honeywell automatic pilot and formation stick. He came away from the flight noting that the “big ship – No. 19210 – probably did more to win the war than any other single airplane although it never flew an hour in combat.” Holstrom indicated in the article that the last flight would be to the UM on 7 September 1945 and that the UM had obtained the aircraft for $350.
This B-17 went from a hectic career on the leading edge of avionics development to a sleepy existence at the UM over the next seven years. The university’s magazine referred to the B-17 as “Fannie” in a short report after the aircraft was sold. It appears that this B-17 was used as a classroom for aspiring flyers at the UM. In 1952, the university decided to trade the B-17 to Jack Lysdale for a flyable Cessna 170-B. Needless, to say this caused some paperwork headaches since the UM had been given the B-17 with the understanding that it would not be flown or used for commercial purposes.
An agreement was concluded on 29 August 1952 between the UM, Lysdale Flying Service, and the Federal Security Administrator allowing the UM to make the trade in as much as “the Government will benefit from such economies as the School would use the aircraft [the Cessna] in connection with research projects carried on for or on behalf of the Government.” More correspondence flowed between the UM, the Government, and Lysdale in order to confirm for the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) that a sale had in fact taken place.
Lysdale operated a flying service at Flemming Field in South St. Paul. He was authorized by the War Assets Administration to deal in ex-military aircraft and was engaged in refurbishing these machines for civilian use. The B-17 was the second B-17 to be purchased by Lysdale and became the oldest B-17 to be registered as a civilian aircraft when Lysdale obtained approval for N5842N on 22 December 1952.
First, however, the aircraft had to be flown the short hop to Flemming Field. Here is how the B-17 was described after seven years on the ground at the UM:
Souvenir hunters carried away some of her wiring. Someone tried to run up an engine and broke a rocker-arm. Field mice and birds nested in the fuselage and the winter weather whipped the fabric control surfaces to ribbons.
Lysdale enlisted some help from Honeywell to get “the turbo-supercharger controls back in shape,” then “replaced the damaged engine, recovered the flight control surfaces and rewired instruments” before making the flight to Flemming Field on 1 November 1952.
Interestingly, Lysdale had the B-17 resold almost as soon as he took possession. It may be that he knew of this potential purchaser, or it may be that he was confident of reselling the aircraft given the demand for planes capable of high-altitude mapping. In any case, Lysdale sold the B-17 to Leeward Aeronautical Service at Baer Field in Fort Wayne, IN on 3 December 1952.
At around the same time, Lysdale submitted a Bill of Sale to the CAA showing payment of $7,575.00 to the UM on 25 August 1952. This was probably done to free any future purchaser from the restriction against exporting the aircraft. The 29 August 1952 Agreement called for a payment of this amount in the event that the aircraft was exported. Presumably, the university forwarded this payment to the government.
Leeward registered the B-17 on 29 December 1952, just seven days after Lysdale, so it is clear that many documents were being submitted at or close to the same time for each of these sales. The B-17 became collateral for a $30,000.00 Chattel Mortgage from the Fort Wayne National Bank on 9 February 1953, and this was released on 18 February 1955.
The Leeward brothers, Albert J. and Raymond J, planned to sell the aircraft to Kenting Aviation Limited in early 1955, but first had to clean up the registration of the aircraft which was still in the name of Leeward Aeronautical Service. They had shifted ownership to themselves on 12 January 1953, but only changed the registration with the CAA on 24 February 1955. This done, they sold to Kenting on 4 March 1955.
Kenting, out of Toronto, Canada, went by the slogan “[E]xperienced in all branches of flying for aerial survey.” Aerial photography for mapping was in high demand in the 1950s and foreign companies were not allowed to operate aircraft in Canada. So, Photographic Survey Corporation, part of British owned Hunting Surveys Group, teamed with Kenting to perform aerial surveys in Canada. The B-17E and a B-17G were among numerous other warbirds involved in this work.
The B-17E was registered as CF-ICB and remained in Canada until 1964. In the summer of 1960, the B-17 operated from Thule, Greenland. It is reported that operations at 32,000 feet tested the endurance of the aircraft and crews with 10 engine changes and several instances where the crew suffered the bends.
In June 1964, Kenting sold the B-17 to Four Star Aviation Inc. of Miami, FL. Four Star must have had a buyer already identified, because the aircraft was resold in July 1964.
2 June 1964 - Kenting requests cancellation of the Canadian registration and identifies Four Star as the buyer.
22 June 1964 – FAA Bill of Sale between Kenting and Four Star
17 and 22 July 1964 telexes and 20 July 1964 letter from Canadian Department of Transport to FAA confirming the cancellation of the Canadian registration.
23 July 1964 – Application for Registration of N9720F (essentially, this number was used only for paperwork purposes)
23 July 1964 FAA Bill of Sale between Four Star and CIA Boliviana De Aviacion (BOA) in La Paz, Bolivia (this included a $20,000.00 mortgage in favor of Four Star)
4 August 1964 - Four Star filed a Cancellation of Aircraft Registration Number citing export of the aircraft to Bolivia.
The B-17 became 1 of some two-dozen B-17s to be operated over the years in Bolivia. BOA arranged for conversion of the aircraft to a cargo configuration and registered it as CP-753. It entered service on 19 November 1964 and carried freight and passengers (up to 5) from La Paz. Interestingly, the aircraft was equipped with R-1820-97 engines in 1970.
BOA sold it to Frigorifico “Reyes” (Reyes) on 31 August 1972. At least that appears to be the date based on a legal filing made by Reyes in May 1974. The documents are not clear as to why the 2-year old transaction was in doubt, but it is certain that Reyes went to considerable trouble to sort this out. The purchase price is shown as $b 290,411.83 or US$ 24,455.73, though there was a 20% devaluation of the peso shortly afterwards in October 1972.
Reyes specialized in flying meat and other items needing refrigeration from Beni Department located in the plains of northern Bolivia - initially based in Reyes, the company relocated to San Borja and San Ignacio de Moxos in about 1962. Known as El Tigre (the tiger), the B-17 suffered a collapsed port landing gear at La Paz on 3 January 1974. As there are no hours shown in the log book on this date, it was most probably a take-off accident. Repairs were made to the tail and the port engines, props, and wing tip so that flight operations could resume on 20 January 1974.
On 11 November 1976, the B-17 crashed while landing at San Borja and suffered considerable damage to the “ship” and motors. It does not appear from the log books that the aircraft returned to service with Reyes and it may have been scavenged for parts to keep other B-17s flying. At this point, the log for the B-17 showed 12,448 hours.
On 19 April 1980, the B-17 was flown from San Borja on a ferry flight to La Paz in the Andes. Here it was stored until eventually sold. By the late 1980s, refrigerated trucks were cutting into the air cargo business and, despite selling aircraft like the B-17, Reyes faded away in about 1994.
Not long afterwards, however, Bowles sold the aircraft to World Jet, Inc. of Ft. Lauderdale, FL and the aircraft had to be made ready for flight. Bowles had the engines and props changed among 30 items in a special 1,000 hour service completed in December 1989. There was an inspection flight on 3 January 1990 and test flights on 17, 18, 19, and 20 January to get ready for the flight to Florida.
The FAA bill of sale is dated 17 January 1990 and Aerocivil-Bolivia confirmed the cancellation of CP-753 and exportation of the aircraft as of 19 January in a 31 January telex to the FAA. World Jet obtained a Special Airworthiness Certificate on 13 February that listed a 15 February departure date, but it appears that William Phillips Mendoza piloted the aircraft to Ft. Lauderdale between 22 and 28 February 1990.
World Jet obtained the aircraft’s 5th unique civil registration number – N8WJ – on 31 January 1990. In September 1991, Scott P. Smith of Colorado Springs, CO purchased the B-17, though it is not clear where the aircraft was located during the time it was owned by him. Smith sold it back to World Jet on 28 May 1995, but the document was only recorded with the FAA on 19 February 1998. Curiously, World Jet reregistered the aircraft in 1998 leaving open the question of why it was unregistered or registered to Smith from May 1995 to February 1998.
It was important to clear up these paperwork issues, because the current owner purchased the B-17 from World Jet on 26 June 1998.
The B-17 was flown from Fort Lauderdale, FL to Seattle, WA during July 1998 and registered on 28 August 1998 with a new number – N12355.
Location: Washington State