Today in AFJ History

November 23, 2013  

1948: Crashing B-17s, deliberately

The aircraft that crashed in 1948 were far from the only B-17s modified to fly without onboard crew. Here, four QB-17s of the 1st Experimental Guided Missiles Group fly over New Mexico in April 1946.

From the archive: November 20, 1948

5 Bombers To Be Ditched

Five Air Force radio-controlled “drone” B-17s, the Flying Fortress of World War II, will be crash landed in the waters of Choctawhatchee Bay near Eglin AFB, Valparaiso, Fla., at two week intervals starting about the middle of December.

The crewless B-17s will be ditched as part of an Air Material [sic] Command study of the structural damage planes receive in a water landing. The resulting information will be used to determine the reliability of the model tests so that ditching characteristics of future USAF aircraft can be predicted more accurately. This is of special importance since ocean crossings of Air Force aircraft have become everyday occurrences.

Each B-17 used in the tests will carry 11 cameras, various devices to record decelerations and hydrodynamic pressures on the aircraft structure, and the normal radio and television camera equipment used for radio-controlled B-17 drones.

Editor’s note: Boeing built more than 12,000 B-17s, whose purchase price in 1943 was about $230,000, or $3.1 million in 2013 dollars. Today, fewer than 50 survive. The restoration of one B-17 airframe can cost $5 million or more.