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15 Things You Never Knew About The B-17 Flying Fortress

It was strong, reliable, and feared by its enemies. This is the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress.

1) In 1940, one B-17 bomber cost a little over $200,000 to produce. That's over $3 million in today's currency.


2) And with total of 12,731 B-17s being produced, the production run would cost over $38 billion today.

Erk Charlton

3) The U.S. Army Air Corps (USAAC) proposed the Flying Fortress on August 8th, 1934 to replace the smaller, aging Martin B-10.

Bill Larkins

4) Prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor, fewer than 200 B-17s were in service with the Army.


5) The YB-40, a modified B-17F, was developed as a super-armed gunship to protect other bombers in the days before escort fighters. Its gross weight was 4,000 lbs. heavier than a fully armed B-17, increasing its time to climb to 20,000 feet from 25 minutes to 48 minutes.


6) The B-17G had 13 .50-caliber machine guns. Gun locations included: single-gun waist and cheek gunners, and chin, top, ball, and tail turrets.


7) 640,000 tons of bombs were dropped by B-17s on Nazi Germany alone during WWII.


8) Crew members dealt with very cold flights in the unpressurized cabins, with temperature gauges in the cockpit frequently reading -40 degrees Fahrenheit. Crews stayed warm in fleece-lined uniforms.

LIFE Magazine

9) Late in WWII, at least 25 B-17s were fitted with radio controls and television cameras, loaded with 20,000 lb of high-explosives, and dubbed BQ-7 "Aphrodite missiles" for Operation Aphrodite.


10) These "Aphrodite missiles" were to be flown into targets via CQ-17 "mothership" control aircraft. However, of the 14 missions using Flying Fortresses, none were successful.

Midland Intl. Air & Space Port

11) Approximately 40 B-17s were captured and refurbished by the German Luftwaffe, with about a dozen put back into the air.


12) This Philippines-captured USAAF Boeing B-17D, in Japanese markings, was flown to Japan for thorough technical evaluation by the Japanese Air Force.


13) B-17s were flown all over the world in the air forces of various nations (shown in red) and as civilian aircraft (shown in blue).


14) Of the 12,731 originally produced, less than 15 B-17s fly today.

Erik Charlton

15) This B-17 sustained a mid-air collision with a German BF-109, yet managed to fly home and land in this condition without major injuries to any of the crew members. With its strength and reliability, it's no wonder that this iconic airplane gained the nickname "The Flying Fortress."


Swayne Martin

Swayne is an editor at Boldmethod, certified flight instructor, and an Embraer 145 First Officer for a regional airline. He graduated as an aviation major from the University of North Dakota in 2018, holds a PIC Type Rating for Cessna Citation Jets (CE-525), and is a former pilot for Mokulele Airlines. He's the author of articles, quizzes and lists on Boldmethod every week. You can reach Swayne at, and follow his flying adventures on his YouTube Channel.

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