Converting the Airfix B-17G to a B-17E, Part IV

B17EConversion_031
Time to paint!  This Fortress will be in the markings of B-17E serial Number 41-9244, HONI KUU OKOLE shortly before her loss in May 1943.  She was unusual in that she was one of four Fortresses requisitioned from a British order and was finished in the RAF Temperate Sea scheme with British markings.  The U.S. insignia were painted over the RAF roundels which meant that the size and locations were slightly different from the U.S. standard.  Here I am using Maketar masks for the insignia so I can fade the colors and account for the odd sizes.  The red dots on the wings are fuel cap locations.  Replacement parts to maintain her would have been issued from U.S. stocks and therefor would have been in the standard Olive Drab over Neutral Gray.  All of this is somewhat speculative as photographs of HONI KUU OKOLE focus mainly on her impressive scoreboard.
B17EConversion_032
The undersides are painted in ANA 610, RAF Sky.  This is from my remaining stocks of Testor’s Model Master enamels and performed well, something which is not at all guaranteed with the old TMM paints.  The centers of the panels were sprayed with a lightened mix to break up the monochrome finish.
B17EConversion_033
The same technique was used on the uppersurfaces, this is Mr. Color Neutral Gray mixed with a dab of Insignia Blue and White to represent ANA 603, the RAF Extra Dark Sea Gray substitute.  This was lightened to represent fading but after it was done I felt I had gone a little too far.
B17EConversion_034
Here is the result of another thin mix of paint sprayed to equalize the fading a bit.  This can be repeated to get the finish you desire, I usually use three tones.
B17EConversion_036
Several hours of masking and then the ANA 613 Olive Drab for Dark Slate Gray.  There is some debate about the U.S. paints used for RAF schemes on lend-lease aircraft which is only more complicated whenever Olive Drab is introduced.
B17EConversion_037
The scheme with paint masks removed and under a gloss coat in preparation for decals, showing the colors used.  Mr. Color 304 was used for a darker Olive Drab to show where the RAF fin flash and serial were painted out, along with replacement parts.  The de-icer boots did not fare well in the South Pacific, they were eventually removed and their former locations painted over, again with Olive Drab.
B17EConversion_038
The second Fortress represents B-17E 41-2616, The “Blue Goose”.  Another unusual Fort, this one was painted in an overall Light Glossy Blue Duco automotive paint at the Hawaiian Air Depot.  The exact shade is not documented, but the finish was described as “a bright, light blue”.  I took a wild guess based upon a Duco paint sample card and mixed Mr. Color 34 with Mr. Color 115 (RLM 65) in a 2 to 1 ratio.  The monochrome finish was broken up with by adding a bit more RLM 65 to lighten the centers of the panels.
B17EConversion_039
Here is HONI KUU OKOLE with everything in place.  The Starfighter Decals performed flawlessly, just be careful in the application as the carrier film is quite thin.  I added a panel line wash and some paint chipping.  Exhaust and oil streaking is subtle and was represented with thin brown washes.
B17EConversion_040
This is the Blue Goose in the full set of markings carried during the first months of the Pacific war.  The red centers to the insignia and the rudder stripes would have been painted out by May 1942, assuming they were carried at all which is not a certainty.  It does make for a striking scheme.  The nose art was known to have been based upon the logo of the Blue Goose Produce Company, this is Mark’s best guess as to the possible appearance.  Since there are no known photographs of this aircraft the nose art decals could be used by modelers in larger scales and still work just fine.

Converting the Airfix B-17G to a B-17E, Part III

B17EConversion_018
The last major area to back-date is the nose.  I started by filling in the astrodome opening on the top and the cut-out for the chin turret on the bottom with thick plastic card.  Gaps were filled with superglue and the inserts were filed to shape.  Then I marked out the window locations for the B-17E and began cutting.

B17EConversion_019
The edges of the openings were colored black with a Sharpie, then the new windows were filled with sections of clear plastic cut from a CD case.  The seams were filled with a liberal amount of superglue and allowed to dry.

B17EConversion_020
The clear side panels were installed the same way and filed smooth, then all seams were checked with Mr. Surfacer 500.  The window positions are masked on the interior surfaces.

B17EConversion_021
Here is the nose sanded down and polished with 8000 grit polishing cloth.   This can be further improved with a coat of Future (Klear) if necessary.

B17EConversion_022
The radio operator’s gun position will be displayed open, and received much the same treatment as the nose.  This is the fixed portion of the transparency installed with superglue.

B17EConversion_023
Here it is all polished out, but the superglue has fogged the inside of the glazing.  This is not a problem as long as you can still get at it.

B17EConversion_024
Future to the rescue!  As long as there is access to the interior, the superglue fogging can be removed with a coat of Future.  Sometimes this can be pipetted in through another opening, but here a curved “paintbrush” was made from a pipe cleaner.

B17EConversion_025
These are the E model transparencies needed from the Falcon canopy set – nose, dorsal turret, and tail gunner’s.  The B-17E nose was stubbier than the G model and was much more heavily framed.

B17EConversion_026
This is the resin tail position grafted onto the Airfix fuselage.  The white plastic tabs are to give backing for the vacuform clear piece.

B17EConversion_027
Here the transparency is installed, a good fit. 

Converting the Airfix B-17G to a B-17E, Part II

B17EConversion_011
Here is the Airfix cockpit and bomb bay module.  This is a neat bit of engineering, the wing spars effectively eliminate the chance of getting the wing dihedral wrong, a problem which plagues the Academy Fortresses.  Experience has demonstrated that very little is visible inside the cockpit except for the seats.  I did blank off behind the wing spars in the bomb bay so the inside of the wing is not visible, just like the real aircraft.

B17EConversion_012
The aft fuselage has some improvements.  The Airfix floor piece is all one level platform, in actuality there was a step in the middle.  Note that the gun mount is offset forward, not centered in the window opening.  The cylindrical object at the rear is a chemical toilet.

B17EConversion_013
This view shows the changes made to the radio compartment.  All the rib detail was removed, the B-17E was provided with batting for sound deadening in the nose, cockpit, and radio compartment so the internal ribbing should not be visible there.  I made the missing compartment doors from plastic sheet and blocked off the side panels where the wing fillet was visible.

B17EConversion_014
The E models had different crew seats than the “swivel chair” type used on the G.  These are not difficult to construct.  Here are the different components in various stages of construction.

B17EConversion_015
I found photographs of actual USAAF seat cushions online and reduced them to scale.  These were then printed on photographic paper and installed in the seats.  Seatbelts received a similar treatment.

B17EConversion_016
The interior after painting.  The floors were covered with rubber sheet to reduce slippage.  Note that the bomb bay and after fuselage section is left in the natural metal finish, unprimed and unpainted.  There are a number of photographs which show Interior Green in these compartments, but these are all of restored warbirds, the interiors of these compartments on actual service Fortresses were left in natural metal.

B17EConversion_017
Here are the Quickboost resin engines with pushrods and the kit exhaust piece added.

Converting the Airfix B-17G to a B-17E, Part I

B17EConversion_001
Like many of my modelling projects this one began with a decal sheet, specifically the “Fortress of the Skies Part 3: E Models” from Starfighter Decals.  Mark has included eight different Fortresses on this sheet, all of them interesting for their camouflage schemes and / or service record.  There are four different B-17Es in the Hawaiian Air Depot multi-colored scheme, two OD / NG, one RAF Temperate Sea scheme, and one HAD experimental scheme of overall Duco blue.  Having already built an Academy B-17E in the HAD scheme, that left four to choose from.  Choices like that are not one of my strengths so I chose two.  Starfighter Decals here:  https://www.starfighter-decals.com/

B17EConversion_002
I have built both an Academy B-17E and the new Airfix B-17G.  The Academy B-17E is the right version but needs several improvements to bring it up to speed, the Airfix B-17G is a really nice build but the wrong version.  I decided to try backdating the Airfix kit to an E model.  The Airfix kit comes with a Cheyenne tail turret, here is the tail position from an Academy B-17F test fit.  Not perfect, but something which I could work with.

B17EConversion_003
The Airfix B-17G represents a later production version with the staggered waist windows (why that wasn’t done right from the first E model is a mystery to me).  This window will have to be filled and a new one cut further aft.

B17EConversion_004
The earlier Forts had narrow prop blades.  When the broad props were introduced with the F model forts the cowlings were shortened 3” to allow the wider blades to feather properly.  In 1/72 scale the 3” cowling change works out to roughly 1 mm.  Comparing the Airfix cowling to drawings it was unclear if the kit had it right or not.  In the end I decided not to adjust the cowl depth.  However, replacing the props is a requirement.  Fortunately many of the Academy kits have both wide and narrow versions so I had enough.

B17EConversion_005
The nose glazing is almost completely changed, and the B-17E didn’t have the Bendix chin turret.  There will be some filling and cutting needed here.

B17EConversion_006
Construction began with the tail position.  I cut off the transparent upper portion, it was a bit too tall anyway and there is a nasty seam right through the middle of the aft-facing glazing.  After gluing the halves together I braced the piece with plastic card to increase the diameter slightly to match the Airfix fuselage.

B17EConversion_007
I then made an RTV mold and cast copies of the piece in resin.  I needed two new tails for this project, and having the mold will allow me to make any of the earlier Forts right up through the first runs of the B-17G series.

B17EConversion_008
I then set about moving the starboard waist gun position back.  Here I am working through the fuselage from the inside with my trusty UMM scriber / scraper.

B17EConversion_009
The forward opening was filled with sheet stock and superglue, then sanded smooth.  I built up rib detail on the inside and installed the slide rails for the new window panel.

B17EConversion_010
The bench in full modeling bliss.  Various sub-assemblies are in progress, most notably the cockpit / bomb bay modules.  Two rows of Quickboost resin engines are visible to the right.

Fortress Against the Sun Book Review

DSC_4919

 

Fortress Against the Sun: The B-17 Flying Fortress in the Pacific

By Gene E. Salecker

Hardcover in dustjacket, 488 pages with appendix, chapter notes, and index

Published by Combined Publishing February 2001

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1580970494

ISBN-13: 978-1580970495

Dimensions: 6.0 x 1.4 x 9.0 inches

The B-17 Flying Fortress is best known for its role in bombing Nazi Germany during the Second World War.  Lesser known is the story of the Fortresses which fought against the Japanese in the Pacific.  Salecker goes a long way to fill this void with this epic reference work, detailing the important missions of every Fortress assigned to the Pacific Theater.

In the Pacific the U.S. heavy bomber units fought against a competent foe, along with disease, fatigue and the weather.  They found themselves at the ragged end of an unreliable supply chain with little hope of significant reinforcement or replacement.  While individual aircraft and crews did dribble into the forward airfields, it wasn’t until 1943 that significant numbers of B-24 Liberators began to arrive which allowed the B-17 units to be relieved.  Even then, many of the veteran Fortresses remained, being modified to serve as armed transports delivering supplies or the personal aircraft of Generals.

The book offers several anecdotes gathered first hand from reports and interviews.  The Fortresses involved in the actions described are identified by serial number and name if one was given, making it easier to follow the story of individual aircraft.  Sources for information are credited in the chapter notes and there is an extensive bibliography.  While there is a lot of detailed factual content, the narrative flows well with many first-hand descriptions of the combats to keep things interesting.

Damage assessment is difficult under the best of circumstances and over-claiming in combat is something which is common to all air services.  One thing I would have liked to have seen was more cross-referencing of Japanese records.  Often the ships which are claimed to have been hit are not named, but only described by type or tonnage.  Defending fighters are almost always described as Zeros and suffer greatly in the action reports.  While this would have added another layer of research to an already detailed account, it would have been interesting to know the Japanese units involved and what actual damage they may have suffered.

Overall I can highly recommend this book to anyone interested in B-17s or the first half or the Pacific War in general.  There is a lot of detailed information here, and I know I’ll be using this book for reference for years to come.

Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress Interior Colors Part III

Here are some nice color shots of the interior of a Boeing B-17E Flying Fortress showing aircrew at their positions.  These are of the thirteenth B-17E produced, serial 41-2405 with the Sperry remote turret in the ventral position.  The pictures were taken by famed aviation photographer Rudy Arnold on 25JUN42.

A couple of notes.  While the descriptions associated with the negatives in the NASM archive all describe the aircraft as being 41-2405, there are a few photographs in the series which are obviously of other Fortresses, so take that identification with a grain of salt on the interior pictures.  Several of the negatives in the collection have water damage so if you notice unexpected color shift or mottling it is possibly a defect on the negative.

All photographs credit National Air and Space Museum Archives, Rudy Arnold Photo Collection unless otherwise noted.

41-2405_BombLoading_RudyArnold25JUN42
Ordinance crew are bombing up 41-2405.  The Norton bombsight in the nose was almost always seen covered when on the ground for security reasons, even though by this time several examples had been captured intact by the Japanese on Java.  Note the grounding wire attached to the pitot tube on the port side of the nose, a necessary precaution against sparks when arming or fueling the aircraft.

41-2405(3)_RudyArnold25JUN42
An exterior view of 41-2405 warming up her engines in the pre-dawn twilight.  Even though the colors are washed out, the Sperry remote belly gun turret and sighting dome show clearly.

41-2405_RudyArnold25JUN42_PilotLtArthurHLittle(2)
Pilot LT Arthur H. Little poses at the controls, showing details of the colors of the flight controls and cockpit.  The cockpit interior was lined with sound-deadening insulation and covered with a dark green canvas.  A B-24 Liberator can be seen in the background.

41-2405_RudyArnold25JUN42_CoPilotLtDouglasHBusky(2)
Co-Pilot LT Douglas H. Busky at his station.  The cockpit side windows could be slid to the rear to allow for ventilation or an unobstructed view.  Notice that the sliding portion is a single piece of molded Plexiglas and is unframed.

41-2405_RudyArnold25JUN42_Navigator2LtRobertWWert(2)
The Navigator, 2LT Robert W. Wert at his station in the nose.  The nose compartment of the early Fortresses was also covered in the sound deadening insulation with dark green canvas covering, but later production Forts dispensed with the insulation in the nose except for the bulkhead separating the nose compartment from the cockpit.  The underlying interior was unprimed.  If you can see the structural ribbing on a Fortress interior, it should be in natural aluminum!

41-2405_RudyArnold25JUN42_RadioOperatorSgtLeslieTFiggs(2)
Aft of the bomb bay is the radio compartment, where SGT Leslie T. Figgs is pictured at his station.  This compartment was also provided with the interior insulation on the B-17E.  Note the color of his table, and that none of the airframe or fittings are primed.

41-2405_AftFuselage(4)_RudyArnold25JUN42
The after fuselage looking forward, where the waist and belly gunners relax with a bottle of milk and a sandwich.  The belly gunner laid between the feet of the waist gunners facing aft to look though his sight.  The crowded conditions interfered with the efficiency of all three men, and using the periscopic sight was disorienting and nauseating for the ventral gunner.  The Sperry remote turret was not a success and no kills were credited to gunners using the system.  In this view the sight is covered with plywood and parachutes for security reasons.

41-2405_AftFuselage(3)_RudyArnold25JUN42
The same view, but here the photographer has switched to another camera loaded with black and white film which shows additional details.  Note the structural support for the belly turret at the top of the frame, and the canvas covering for the vertical support.

Boeing-B-17E-interior-7
Here is a Boeing factory photograph showing the Sperry remote turret and associated sight more clearly.  It is easy to imagine the waist gunners stepping on and tripping over the belly gunner in combat.  The remote turrets were removed from most aircraft in the Pacific sometime during the Summer and Fall of 1942 and replaced with the manned Sperry ball turrets.  (Boeing photograph)

41-2405_AftFuselage(1)_RudyArnold25JUN42
A posed photograph showing the waist gunners with their .50 caliber machine guns aimed aft.  The lack of space for the gunners to work is obvious, some crews flew with only one waist gunner, especially later in the war.  The interior of the aft fuselage was not provided with the insulative covering, and was left in unprimed Aluminum (as was the bomb bay).  Restored warbirds are generally seen with primed interiors as a preservative measure which has led to an erroneous perception among modelers.

B17Nose
A photograph from the Michael Ochs Archives showing an early Fortress with the hand-held .30 caliber machine gun mounted in the nose.  The relatively weak defensive armament in the nose was quickly discovered by both the Germans and the Japanese.  Efforts by Fortress crews to increase the forward firepower were frustrated by heavier guns cracking the Plexiglas panels which also served as mounts.  Various field modifications were tried in an effort to absorb the recoil from heavier nose guns.

Link to Part I here:  https://inchhighguy.wordpress.com/2019/09/11/b-17-flying-fortress-interior-colors-part-i/

Link to Part II here:  https://inchhighguy.wordpress.com/2019/09/18/b-17-flying-fortress-interior-colors-part-ii/

Boeing B-17E Flying Fortress 41-9112 Dreamboat

41-9112_01
While the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress was arguably one of the most important aircraft designs of the Second World War, even the best designs can be improved.  Combat experience against the Luftwaffe over Europe identified the need for several potential modifications suggested by the crews.  The job of evaluating those changes was given to Major Robert J. Reed.  Reed was sent to Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio and given B-17E 41-9112 to experiment on.

41-9112_02
Reed replaced much of the B-17E defensive armament with components already in production for the Consolidated B-24 Liberator.  The most obvious changes were mounting powered turrets in the nose and tail positions.  Jagdwaffe pilots had identified the hand-held nose armament as a weak point in the Fortresses defenses, and the tail position had a very restricted field of fire.  The Liberator turrets remedied both these problems at a stroke.

41-9112_03
With the nose position now occupied by a turret the bombardier was moved to a gondola under the nose, similar to the original design of the Boeing Model 299.  From this position the bombardier could also function as navigator which freed up a crew position.  Like many Fortresses, the Dreamboat featured her own artwork.

41-9112_04
The radio operator was moved to the nose compartment and a powered twin .50 caliber mount was installed in the old radio compartment.  This eliminated both single waist gun positions while increasing the “broadside” firepower which could be brought to bear defending against a beam attack.  Shifting the crew and equipment weight forward also helped correct a balance problem in the Fortress – the center of gravity was aft of the center of lift, resulting in the Fortress being tail heavy and fatiguing to fly.

41-9112_05
Reed completely redesigned the bomb bay doors.  Instead of two large doors which opened into the slipstream when opened, the new bomb bay doors folded back against the fuselage sides.  This not only reduced drag but was also less noticeable to intercepting Luftwaffe pilots who knew the big bombers were restricted in their ability to maneuver while on their bomb runs.

41-9112_06
The hybrid bomber was named the “Dreamboat”.  One of the more important changes was not apparent when looking at the aircraft from the outside.  The B-17 crew’s oxygen system was adequate, but hypoxia was potentially fatal if the system suffered damage.  Reed installed a dual-feed system on the Dreamboat which increased capacity and provided redundancy, a potentially life-saving modification.

41-9112_07
The Dreamboat never saw combat, but was returned to England.  Combat crews were enthusiastic about the improvements – defensive firepower and fields of fire had been improved, crew requirements were reduced from ten to eight, the CG problem had been solved, and the oxygen system and bomb bay doors were improved.

41-9112_08
In the end, the modifications demonstrated on the Dreamboat were not adopted for factory production.  A premium was placed on quantity production above all else, it was felt that the changes suggested by Major Reed would prove to be too much of a disruption to the production lines, and the modifications were too extensive to be performed at the depot level.  The Dreamboat would remain a dream.

The B-17 Flying Fortress Story Book Review

DSC_4637

 

The B-17 Flying Fortress Story: Design-Production-History

By Roger A. Freeman with David Osborne

Hardcover in dustjacket, illustrated, 319 pages

Published by Arms and Armour August 1998

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1854093010

ISBN-13: 978-1854093011

Dimensions: 9 x 1.2 x 11.2 inches

This book is not for everyone, it is intended to be a researcher’s reference.  It does not contain crew interviews, unit histories, color profiles, or mission reports.  If you read reviews of this book, in several cases there is a disconnect between what is covered and what the customer hoped would be covered.

It is helpful to view this book in two parts.  The first part is a design history written by Freeman which describes the technical details and design evolution of the B-17.  This includes several annotated factory drawings which identify every window, access panel, and interior component, something which is sure to please even the most pedantic B-17 aficionado.  Each modification to the armament is described and illustrated regardless whether this was a factory change or developed in the field.  Production changes are listed by the factory block number and U.S. Army serial number ranges.  There were three factories producing B-17s during the war (Boeing at Seattle (-BO), Lockheed Vega at Burbank (-VE), and Douglas at Long Beach (-DL)).  Each manufacturer assigned production blocks differently, and introduced production changes at different times, so a B-17F-25 from one factory differs in detail from those produced at the other two even though they share the same block numbers.  Using the serial numbers the changes can be determined for each individual aircraft.

Performance data is presented in a large table which makes it easy to determine the relative capabilities of each variant.  There is also an interesting section on post-war service and developments applied to the surviving Fortresses.  The B-17s served in a wide variety of roles after the war with various operators and these are some of the more interesting modifications and are not widely described, such as engine test beds, air/sea rescue, and civilian airliners.

The second section of the book is devoted to Osborne’s research into the individual record cards for each of the 12,731 B-17s produced.  This is arranged by U.S. Army serial number and gives the locations and dates detailing the movements and unit assignments preserved in the records.  Fates and aircraft names are listed where known.  Here you get a good feel for what happened to the aircraft within the United States, but the information recorded gets less detailed as it gets further away from the U.S.  Obviously, this is a massive undertaking and can never be complete, but here a researcher has a place to start when tracking down any given B-17 serial.  A table allows correlation with the manufacturers’ production numbers as well.  This section comprises the bulk of the book and totals almost 250 pages.

As I said earlier, not a book for every reader, but an invaluable asset for a researcher or a modeler who wants to get every little piece of equipment right for a particular aircraft.  If that’s you, this is your book!

DSC_4638

 

DSC_4639

 

 

Boeing XB-38 Flying Fortress

41-2401_01
Essentially an Allison-powered B-17E, the XB-38 was a project developed by engineers at Lockheed-Vega.  The ninth production B-17E 41-2401 had been delivered to Lockheed-Vega to help in setting up a Flying Fortress production line at their Burbank, California facility.  This was the aircraft modified as the prototype for the XB-38 design.

41-2401_02
The standard 1,200 hp Wright Cyclone R-1820-65 nine cylinder radial engines were replaced with Allison V-1710-89 in-lines.  Both types of engines were turbocharged to improve performance at altitude.  The Allisons each developed 1,425 hp, an increase of 225 hp per engine over the Cyclones.

Boeing-Lockheed Vega XB-38. (U.S. Air Force photo)
Work on the project began in the Summer of 1942, but it was not until 19MAY43 that the XB-38 first took to the air.

41-2401_04
The aircraft handled well during testing, but the project was delayed while problems with exhaust manifold leaks were corrected.

41-2401_05
Boeing lacked an indoor paint shop at their Seattle facility which might explain the natural metal finish on 41-2401 when it was delivered to Lockheed-Vega. 

41-2401_06
Four weeks into the testing program while on its ninth flight, the XB-38 developed a fire in the right inboard engine nacelle.  Efforts to extinguish the fire were unsuccessful and the aircrew bailed out.  The co-pilot was killed when his parachute failed to open.

41-2401_07
While the Allison powered Fortress was slightly faster than the Cyclone powered version, it was also heavier and had a projected lower maximum ceiling.  In addition, the Allison engine was in demand for several USAAF Pursuit aircraft, including the P-38, P-39, and P-40 among others.  With no clear advantage to changing the design, the decision was made to continue Flying Fortress production with Cyclone engines.  Here is the XB-38 sharing the apron with a B-17F.

41-2401_08
Markings were standard for the time, and included the “U.S. ARMY” lettering on the underside.  Noteworthy is the lack of defensive armament with only the dorsal turret having guns mounted.  The ventral ball turret is a dummy.  Interestingly, the sighting blister and scanning windows associated with the Sperry remote turret are still in place.

41-2401_09
A beautiful profile view which shows off the contours of the Allison engine nacelles well.  Certainly an attractive aircraft!

41-2401_10
From the front the aerodynamic streamlining of the engine nacelles is apparent.  Inline engines are generally heavier and require more maintenance than radials, but have a smaller frontal area which helps the designer reduce drag.

The Boeing Model 299 – The First Flying Fortress

52273.Boeing Bombardment Airplane
The Model 299 was Boeing’s entry into a USAAC design competition to replace the Martin B-10 as the Air Corps’ primary bomber.  Built at Boeing’s expense, the design was unusual for mounting four Pratt & Whitney R-1690 Hornet radial engines instead of the more expected two.  The design also mounted five .30 caliber machine guns in fully enclosed positions which led to reporter Richard Williams of the Seattle Daily Times calling the aircraft a “Flying Fortress”, a name which Boeing was quick to adopt.

Boeing XB-17 (Model 299). (U.S. Air Force photo)
The prototype was given the registration number X 13372 and USAAC markings for the competition.  The streamlined design was fast for its time, averaging 233 mph on the delivery flight from Seattle to Wright Field.  It was superior in every respect except for price – the Boeing design cost approximately twice as much as its competitors.

Boeing299_03
The nose of the Model 299 contained a separate fairing for the bomb sight.  On later production models this would be incorporated into the nose glazing.

Boeing XB-17 (Model 299) nose turret with gun. (U.S. Air Force photo)
The nose featured a single .30 caliber machine gun in a swivel mount which gave the gun a wide field of fire.  The design and workmanship of the gun positions was innovative for the time, as contemporary service aircraft were generally equipped with open positions which exposed the gunners to the slipstream.

Boeing299_05
A view inside the nose looking forward, clearly showing the step and opening for the bomb sight which is not yet fitted.  The Model 299 did not carry acoustical insulation in the nose, the interior was left in unpainted aluminum.

Boeing XB-17 (Model 299) cockpit. (U.S. Air Force photo)
The cockpit layout of the Model 299 set the basic configuration for the more than 12,700 Fortresses to follow.  Pilot and co-pilot sat side-by-side with the throttles and propeller controls mounted in the center console where they were accessible to both.

Boeing299_07
The bomb bay should also look familiar to all Flying Fortress fans.  The Model 299 could carry up to 4,800 pounds of bombs internally.  Even at this initial design stage guide ropes were installed to help keep crew members on the catwalk.

Boeing299_08
The radio operator’s position featured insulative batting to reduce the noise in the compartment, in stark contrast to the natural aluminum finish on the rest of the aircraft’s interior.

Boeing299_09
A Boeing engineer demonstrates one of the .30 caliber waist gun mounts.  The hinged ring assembly allowed the gun to move in train, while the Plexiglas bubble fairing allowed movement in elevation.  In combination the design allowed the gunner a wide field of fire while remaining protected from the slipstream.

Boeing299_10
The exterior contours of the gun positions were very aerodynamic.  The construction and finish of the prototype was exceptional.

Boeing299_11
On 30OCT35 the Model 299 crashed at Wright Field with two fatalities, the cause was traced to a gust lock which was designed to keep the control surfaces from moving on the ground which the pilots neglected to disengage.  With Boeing’s entry unable to complete the competition, the USAAC awarded a construction contract to Douglas for 133 B-18s.  Boeing could have been financially devastated, but fortunately managed to secure a contract for thirteen YB-17s thus saving both the company and the Flying Fortress.  The Model 299 was later retroactively called the XB-17.