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Our First Fundraiser.

Long ago we decided that we would never do a fundraiser for this blog. We have always gladly assumed the costs associated with the hosting, domain name, etc.

However, we think we need to create a fundraiser in order to procure this:

1941 Boeing B-17E Flying Fortress
s/n 2682 N12355

Boeing B-17E built in Seattle

Specifications

Airframe:

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.

History:

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. (emphasis ours)

It even has a connection to Florida and the Orlando area!

The cost is a mere $9,000,000 and probably a little more (another million or so) to finish the restoration and fly it here.

For those who donate $100,000 or more, we’ll take you on a flight once the B-17 is fully restored.

Imagine seeing the Space Coast from the air in a vintage World War II plane!

We’ll let you know when the accounts are set up for this, but start planning ahead.

What would make a better Christmas gift than saying to a loved one, “we helped restore a piece of history.”


We shouldn’t have to say this but we will.

Obviously this is all satire.

Oh, the plane is actually for sale and is almost restored, but we are not raising funds or asking for donations to restore it and fly it here.

We just thought it was cool because a vintage, historical B-17 doesn’t pop up on Craigslist, you know.



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