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Home Base: Galveston, TX
Operation: Western, Central and Eastern USA
Model: B-17G
Wing Span:
103' 9"
Length: 74' 4"
Height: 19' 2"
Max Speed: 287 mph
Gross Weight: 65,500 lbs
Power Plant: 4 x Wright R-1820-97
Horsepower: 4 x 1,200
Fuel Capacity: 3,630 gallons
Armament: Thirteen 50-caliber machine-guns plus a maximum of 17,600 lb (7,983 kg) of bombs. Normal bomb load 6,000 lbs (2,724 kg). Largest bomb type carried was 2,000 lb (908 kg).

LSFM's Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress "Thunderbird"

The Lone Star Flight Museum (LSFM)
is the owner and operator of this Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress (USAAF s/n 44-85718), which is available for airshows, flybys, film and warbird rides at airshows within Texas.

The Flying Fortress was designed for a USAAC competition, announced in 1934, to find a modern replacement for the assorted Keystone biplane bombers, then in service. Since funding was lacking at the time, only thirty Flying Fortresses were fully operational when Hitler's forces invaded Poland in September 1939. The US was not involved in the fighting in Europe at the time, so it did not seem to be a matter of urgency. However, as it became clearer that US involvement was inevitable, after the Munich Crisis, orders for B-17s were increased.

The Pearl Harbor attack of December 7, 1941 finally brought the United States into the war and production of the B-17 rapidly increased. By July 1942, the US began forming the Eighth Air Force in Britain, equipped with B-17Es. The 'E' represented an important improvement over the earlier B-17s, in that it had a tail turret, eliminating a previous defensive blind spot. Production of the B-17F was undertaken by Douglas and Vega, a subsidiary of the Lockheed Aircraft Corp., but modifications were taking their toll in airspeed. There were more than four hundred modifications on the B-17F.

The B-17F lacked adequate defense against a head-on attack. By September 1943, the Flying Fortress showed its final shape during firepower tests on the XB-40, a modified B-17F with the advantage of a "chin" turret. The success of the chin turret, led to the delivery of the B-17G (the major production version), which was the first production variant to have a chin turret installed, under the nose. The Bendix turret held two .50-cal. guns, which increased the armament to thirteen guns. In all, there were 8,680 B-17Gs built by Boeing, Vega, and Douglas to make this the largest production variation. Produced in greater numbers than any other single model, more B-17Gs were lost, than any other model.

On 19 July 1943, US B-17s and B-24 Liberators carried out the first bombing raid on Rome. US bombing in Europe reached its high point in February 1945 with a 1,000-bomber raid on Berlin,
escorted by 400 fighters, and the Dresden raid (alongside RAF Lancasters) which, caused a massive fire storm to sweep the city. Meanwhile, B-17s were also helping to win the war against Japan, although by mid-1943 the larger Boeing B-29 had begun to take over the major strategic bombing missions in the Pacific theater.

The Boeing B-17, and the Consolidated B-24, were the United States' two standard heavy bombers until the introduction of the B-29 Superfortress. B-17s were flown by the United States Army Air Corps (USAAC), throughout the American participation in the Second World War. They were used by the US Eighth Air Force, based in the UK, to bombard German targets in Europe during daylight hours, a method which resulted initially in very heavy losses of aircraft and crew. As B-17 refinements progressed, along with better pilot training and tactics, it would become a formidable adversary in the Allied war against Germany.

Old reliable Thunderbird flew 112 bombing missions from Molesworth, England for the 303rd Bomb Group. The original Thunderbird Crew, piloted by Lt. Vern L. Moncur, was the first crew in the 303rd Bomb Group to complete their combat missions without anyone on board being injured. Lt Moncur's crew was the only crew ever assigned to Thunderbird as their primary aircraft. After Moncur's Crew finished their 28 mission combat tour, Thunderbird became a "first mission ship", given to new crews to get them off to a good start,and a good start it was, as no regular crew member was ever injured on a Thunderbird mission.

Vern L. Moncur, the first pilot of Thunderbird led her on 23 of her first 29 recorded flights and 20 of her first 24 credited missions. Also, his log book shows 6 more Thunderbird flights for which there are no official records, beginning with the January 23, 1944 "test hop of a new plane."

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Lone Star Flight Museum
2002 Terminal Drive
Galveston, Texas 77554

Tel: (409) 740-7722
Fax: (409) 740-7612

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