During the war B-17 Flying Fortresses were produced at three locations. The Boeing plant at Seattle, Washington was assigned production code BO; Douglas at Long Beach, California was DL; and Lockheed Vega at Burbank, California was VE. These codes were noted at the end of each aircraft’s batch number. Each factory was supplied with equipment and pre-manufactured assemblies by various subcontractors. While governed by the same set of regulations, variations in production practices and suppliers inevitably resulted detail differences.
In the first post on B-17 interiors I showed the standards for the “official” colors and appearance. In this post I’ll show some of the variations and details of operational Fortresses.
Link to the first part is here: https://inchhighguy.wordpress.com/2019/09/11/b-17-flying-fortress-interior-colors-part-i/
Link to Part 3 is here: https://inchhighguy.wordpress.com/2020/03/04/b-17-flying-fortress-interior-colors-part-iii/
One of the reasons for starting this blog was to have a place for collecting all the little details dug up while researching information to build a model and putting them in a single place where they can be organized and located again when needed, along with notes explaining what was found. On several occasions I have revisited a topic later only to find that I can’t remember why I thought a particular component was a certain color or when the wheel tread pattern changed on the landing gear. Writing things down here helps with all that, and if you guys can use this information too then saving you time is a bonus. So with that in mind here is some information on B-17 interior colors for anyone wanting to model a Flying Fortress.
The Boeing B-17 remains a popular aircraft and there are a lot of photographs out there of restored B-17s, both on the Warbird circuit and in museums. There are even a few of these pictures on this blog. This is actually a mixed blessing for modelers, while you can get a good feel for the layout and structure of the Flying Fortress, many (if not most) restorations paint the aircraft with preservation as the priority instead of accuracy. This has resulted in lots of “Interior Green” inside of the aircraft where it was not used in actual production. We then carry these errors on to our models, further reinforcing the mistake because it matches what we have seen either in person or in reference books.
I’m going to present the information on B-17 interior colors in two parts. This first section will present the official specifications from Technical Order 01-20EF-2 B-17F Airplane Erection and Maintenance Instructions, and official Boeing factory photographs of production aircraft which reflect the specified standards. The second section will be variations from these specifications, along with details and colors of some of the installed equipment.
B-17 Interior Color Summary from T. O. 01-20EF-2:
- Paint everything Aluminum unless otherwise noted. This includes the entire fuselage interior (except for the flight deck), wheel wells, cowling interiors, bomb bays, bomb racks, landing gear (on uncamouflaged aircraft) and the inside surface of the bomb bay doors.
- The cockpit area should be Bronze Green (FS 14058 but a little darker) or Dull Dark Green (FS 34092).
- Early B-17s had insulative batting for noise reduction installed in the nose compartment, flight deck, and radio compartments. This was covered with neatly upholstered Dark Green or Olive Drab canvas cloth. Crews often removed the batting in theater, the underlying airframe was left unprimed in natural Aluminum. Later production Fortresses reduced or omitted this covering in the nose and radio compartments. If you have rib detail showing on a Fortress interior, it should be natural aluminum.
- Plywood was used to fabricate many interior structures such as ammo boxes, the navigator’s table, compartment doors, and walkways. These were covered in two coats of varnish and were often left unpainted, especially in later production.
- Radio equipment and instrument panels were black. Oxygen bottles were yellow. Fire extinguishers were left in natural metal. Walkways were covered in a rubber non-slip material. Interior components were provided from numerous subcontractors, so there can be some variations in details and finishes.
Link to Part III here: https://inchhighguy.wordpress.com/2020/03/04/b-17-flying-fortress-interior-colors-part-iii/
The two most relevant pages for Flying Fortress interior colors from Technical Order 01-20EF-2 B-17F Airplane Erection and Maintenance Instructions, for your reading pleasure.
Photographs taken at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.
Landing gear photographs here: https://inchhighguy.wordpress.com/2019/06/02/b-25j-mitchell-walk-around-landing-gear/
Memphis Belle walk around here: https://inchhighguy.wordpress.com/2019/08/18/boeing-b-17f-flying-fortress-memphis-belle-walk-around-part-1/