EAA AVIATION CENTER, OSHKOSH, Wis. - (Jan. 25, 2010) - The Boeing B-17 "Flying Fortress," perhaps the most readily recognized bomber of the World War II era, will be center stage for its 75th anniversary during EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2010, "The World's Greatest Aviation Celebration," on July 26-August 1 at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh.
Only about 15 of the iconic aircraft remain airworthy anywhere in the world, including EAA's renowned "Aluminum Overcast," which brings aviation history to the public through its annual national tours. Potentially, at least four B-17s could be present at Oshkosh as the exact 75th-anniversary date of the B-17's first flight on July 28, 1935, comes during AirVenture.
"We are making the call to all B-17 owners to join us at Oshkosh this year for an unmatched celebration of this 75th anniversary," said Tom Poberezny, EAA president and AirVenture chairman. "The B-17 is well-known to the public through its military service, as well as through movie and television productions made over the past 70 years.
Nothing can match seeing and hearing these magnificent airplanes in person, especially when a significant number can gather in one place. The natural place for this celebration is AirVenture, where this year we are also organizing a major national Salute to Veterans program."
A special schedule of flyovers and ground programs will be part of the B-17 75th anniversary commemoration, along with an evening program on Wednesday, July 28 - 75 years to the day of the B-17's first test flight. In addition, B-17s will participate in the Warbirds shows on several days during AirVenture 2010.
According to Boeing Aircraft historians, the B-17 went from its design as the Model 299 prototype to flight testing in less than 12 months. The B-17 was a low-wing monoplane that combined aerodynamic features of the XB-15 bomber and the Model 247 transport. The B-17 was the first Boeing military aircraft with a flight deck instead of an open cockpit, and was armed with bombs and five .30-caliber machine guns mounted in clear "blisters."
The first B-17s saw combat in 1941, when the British Royal Air Force took delivery of several B-17s for high-altitude missions. The B-17E, the first mass-produced model Flying Fortress, carried nine machine guns and a 4,000-pound bomb load. It was several tons heavier than the prototypes and bristled with armament. It was the first Boeing airplane with the distinctive tail for improved control and stability during high-altitude bombing. Each version was more heavily armed.
Boeing plants built a total of 6,981 B-17s in various models, and another 5,745 were built under a nationwide collaborative effort by Douglas and Lockheed (Vega). Most B-17s were scrapped at the end of World War II. Some of the last Flying Fortresses met their end as target drones in the 1960s - destroyed by Boeing-built military missiles. EAA's "Aluminum Overcast," fortunately, was saved from the scrap heap when itwas originally purchased as surplus for $750 in the mid-1940s.