B-17 Day, October 16, 2010

Flying FortressB-17 Flying Fortress FUDDY DUDDY takes to the skies over Orange County October 16, 2010

The skies above Orange County’s John Wayne Airport will be rumbling with the sounds of the biggest, most powerful bird in Lyon Air Museum’s collection when the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress “Fuddy Duddy” makes a rare flight beginning at 12 noon on “B-17 Day,” Saturday, October 16, 2010.  The museum is located at John Wayne Airport.

“The ‘Fuddy Duddy’ is far and away the star of the museum,” said Mark Foster, president of Lyon Air Museum, a premier Southern California showcase for vintage WW II-era aircraft and automobiles.  “We don’t get to show this magnificent aircraft in flight very often, and just about everyone who sees it airborne can’t help but be impressed by so massive a plane maneuvering with such graceful elegance.”

The “Fuddy Duddy” Flying Fortress was used as a VIP transport in the Pacific at the end of WW II. It once carried U.S. Army Generals Douglas A. MacArthur and Dwight D. Eisenhower, who later became the 33rd U.S. President. In civilian life, the plane worked as a fire bomber and was occasionally used for motion picture filming, flying on screen in movies such as the 1962 Steve McQueen movie, “The War Lover,” and the 1970 blockbuster, “Tora Tora Tora.”

The aircraft is 17 tons of machinery with four 1,200-horsepower Wright Cyclone R-1820 9-cylinder radial piston engines driving 11-ft.-x-7-in.-diameter Hamilton Standard propellers.  It is nearly 75 feet in length, 19 feet in height and has a 104-ft. wingspan.  During WW II, it had a service ceiling of 35,600 feet and came equipped with a typical armament of 13 Browning M-2 .50 caliber machine guns that had a fire rate of approximately 13 rounds per second, per gun.

The “Fuddy Duddy” belongs to the line of B-17 Flying Fortress four-engine heavy bomber aircraft first developed by Boeing in the 1930s for the U.S. Army Air Corps (USAAC).  B-17s served in every WW II combat zone, and by the time production ended in May 1945, 12,731 of the planes had been built by Boeing, Douglas and Vega (a Lockheed subsidiary).

During the war, B-17 bombers were primarily employed by the U.S. Army Air Forces (USAAF) in the daylight precision strategic bombing campaign against German industrial and military targets. B-17s also participated to a lesser extent in the War in the Pacific, where the planes conducted raids against Japanese shipping and airfields.

From its pre-war inception, the USAAC (later USAAF) touted the B-17 as a strategic weapon.  It was a potent, high-flying, long-range bomber that was able to defend itself and to return home despite extensive battle damage. It quickly took on mythic proportions, and widely circulated stories and photos of B-17s surviving battle damage increased its iconic status. With a service ceiling greater than that of any of its Allied contemporaries, the B-17 became established as an effective weapons system, dropping more bombs than any other U.S. aircraft in WW II. Of the 1.5 million metric tons of bombs dropped on Germany by U.S. aircraft, 640,000 tons were dropped from B-17s.