Aero Vintage recently provided exciting updates on several examples of the historic World War II bomber renowned for its durability and strategic impact- the B-17 Flying Fortress. The latest developments include comprehensive restorations aimed at preserving the aircraft’s legacy for future generations. These efforts involve meticulous attention to detail, from structural repairs and engine overhauls to the restoration of original instrumentation and interior features.

By Scott Thompson of Aero Vintage

B-17G, USAAF #44-8846 (F-AZDX) Pink Lady

Just a few days ago on Facebook, the sole French-based B-17 was seen out on the green grass of its home at Aerodrome de Cerny at La Ferte-Alais in France. This B-17G, USAAF #44-8846, has been grounded since 2010 due to high insurance and operating costs. Recently, there were reports that the airplane was undergoing maintenance and inspection, suggesting the possibility it might fly again. Official updates have been scarce, but the aircraft was recently taxied around the airfield, as shown in this linked video.  This Fort is one of the few surviving B-17s that saw combat during World War II, for it was based at RAF Polebrook and flew six missions with the 511th Bombardment Squadron/351st Bombardment Group in the waning months of the war.

B-17G, USAAF #44-85740 (N5017G) Aluminum Overcast

The EAA B-17G, USAAF #44-85740 (N5017G), famously known as Aluminum Overcast, has been reassembled. Photos from a recent Facebook post show the aircraft back together in the EAA Kermit Weeks maintenance hangar. This B-17 was grounded in March 2021 due to significant damage discovered in its left wing attach points. The plane was disassembled in Florida and transported to Oshkosh, Wisconsin, for repairs. Extensive rework and inspections have been carried out, and most of the heavy work is apparently complete. However, it is rumored that the airplane will remain grounded for the rest of the year as additional work continues. Attempts to get official information from EAA for confirmation have not yet been successful.

Photo by David Hast

B-17G, USAAF #44-85734 (N390TH) Liberty Belle

A recent issue of Vintage Aircraft News features an excellent article by Adam Estes on the restoration and recreation of B-17G, USAAF #44-85734 (N390TH), also known as Liberty Belle. This project revolves around the remains of the B-17G, which suffered an inflight wing fire in June 2013, leading to a successful off-field landing, but continued burning until it was severely damaged. The decision was made to rebuild the aircraft, and the effort has been ongoing for eleven years. As detailed in the article, the major airframe components have now been assembled, and the airplane is gradually coming together. However, much work remains, including the installation of wiring, control systems, engines, and propellers. The article is highly informative and includes an interview with Don Brooks, the organizer of the Liberty Foundation, which is spearheading the project.

B-17G, USAAF #44-85784 (G-BEDF) Sally-B

It’s great news, especially for our friends across the Atlantic, that the UK’s sole flying B-17G, 44-85784 (G-BEDF), affectionately known as Sally-B, is back in the air after its winter break. It has a busy spring and summer schedule, with appearances planned across the UK. The B-17 Preservation Group, which operates Sally-B, is incredibly dedicated to keeping this historic aircraft flying each year.

One B-17 is currently out there touring. As I write this, the CAF B-17G, USAAF #44-83514 (N9323Z), better known as Sentimental Journey, is offering tours and rides at Birmingham, Alabama, before moving on the Atlanta, Georgia, next week.  More tour details here. For other flyable B-17s that offer rides, Yankee Lady, B-17G, USAAF #44-85829 (N3193G) has dates posted beginning in July. And, B-17G, USAAF#44-8543 (N3701G) that flies as Ye Olde Pub has a few dates posted beginning in June.

CAF Arizona Airbase B-17 Sentimental Journey photographed by the late Jay Beckman.

Recently Scott posted an intriguing article on a lesser-known B-17 topic: the story of eight B-17s sent from the USAF to Bolivia via the U.S. Civil Aviation Administration in the summer of 1956. Additionally, seven more were given to a contractor, Gordon Hamilton in Tucson, Arizona, for disassembly into component parts to support those B-17s. Altogether, 26 B-17s served Bolivia’s civil cargo needs from 1950 to the early 1980s. This article focuses on the journey of those eight B-17s and their eventual roles in Bolivia. I hope you find it worth a read.

Scott Thompson
Aero Vintage Books

Many thanks indeed to Scott A. Thompson for allowing us to reproduce this article… his book, Final Cut: The Post-War B-17 Flying Fortress and Survivors as well as other titles are the gold standard when it comes to the airframe history it describes!