B-17G Flying Fortress

This is part of the museum's First, Last, and Only aircraft—View the others

One of the most charismatic planes in the collection is undoubtedly the B-17G Flying Fortress that completed a long-term refurbishment. Although produced too late to see combat in WWII, #44-83624 saw extensive service first in a highly secret project that resurrected the idea of using obsolete aircraft as radio-controlled flying bombs, then as a drone-control aircraft in the ground-to-air missile development program. In 1957, it was retired to the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. In 1989, it was given to Dover to replace the famous B-17G “Shoo-Shoo-Shoo Baby” that was restored here over a ten-year period and flown back, under her own power, to Wright-Patterson’s Museum.

The B-17 was America’s most famous heavy bomber during WWII. Over 12,000 were produced for combat. Today only about 40 remain in museums. Less than a dozen of these are in flying condition. This Fortress was one of the last on active duty in the Air Force. It is the sole remaining aircraft from the 1948 Flying Bomb project (MB-17G), and served as a Drone Director (DB-17G) with the Guided Missile Wing at Eglin AFB, FL. Disassembled at the USAF Museum, it was flown to Dover in a C-5. After a seven year restoration it is painted and marked as Sleepy Time Gal from the 381st Bomb Group.


One of the most well known bombers of all time, the B-17 Flying Fortress became famous for the long daylight bombing raids over Europe in WWII. While it lacked the range and bomb load of its contemporary B-24 Liberator, the B-17 became the more famous of the two due to the many tales of B-17s bringing their crews back home despite heavy damage. With up to thirteen machine guns, the B-17 seemed to be genuine flying “fortress in the sky.” However, bomber losses reached the unacceptable point in 1943 in the face of stiff German opposition, and the B-17s welcomed the introduction of long-range fighter escort before they could continue their war against the Reich.

Project 299, as Boeing called it, got started on August 16, 1934, only eight days after the company had received the official government request for a prototype multi-engine bomber to be ready by August of the following year. Specifications called for a plane that could carry a payload of 2,000 pounds a distance of between 1,000 and 2,000 miles at speeds between 200 and 250 m.p.h. The Boeing designers took advantage of the knowledge they had gained in building the civil transport Model 247 and in developing the Model 294 bomber. Less than a month later, after the prototypes first flight on July 28, 1935, it took the air from Seattle Washington to Wright Patterson AFB Ohio to show it could fly over 2,000 miles nonstop in nine hours. Few B-17s were in service on December 7, 1941 during the raid of Pearl Harbor, but production quickly accelerated. The aircraft served in every WWII combat zone, but is best known for daylight strategic bombing of German industrial targets. Production ended in May 1945 and totaled 12,731. The name Flying Fortress has entered the world of myth and legend. Perhaps more than any other plane, the B-17 represented the power of American aviation in the years that Europe was overrun by Axis troops.

When is a B-17 Not a B-17?

Army Air Force leaders often turned to the B-17 to fulfill unprecedented mission requirements because of the aircraft’s dependability and availability in large numbers. The B-17 accomplished some of these missions, like photographic reconnaissance, air-sea rescue and personnel transports, with the same capability as it did its primary long-range bombing role.

Due to a shortage of dedicated cargo aircraft various heavy bomber types, including the B-17, B-24 and B-29, were pressed into service as makeshift transports. Four B-17s were converted to C-108s but were not particularly successful since the weight of any cargo had to be centered in the rather small bomb bay.

At Dover Army Airfield, B-17s filled two unique requirements. Several “Fortresses” were used to tow gunnery targets at high altitudes giving P-47 pilots realistic training in maneuvering their planes in the thin air above 25,000 feet. Near the end of the war one or two planes were modified here at Hangar 1301 to test the feasibility of firing rockets at attacking German aircraft.

As part of the Target Drone/Drone Director programs, B-17s flew in the USAF until the early 1960s.

Restoration Gallery


Video Tour

360° Panoramic Tour

Serial Number: 44-83624
First Flight:
28 July 1935
6 August 1959
Crew: Pilot, co-pilot, navigator, bombardier/nose gunner, flight engineer/top turret gunner, radio operator, two waist gunners, ball turret gunner, tail gunner
Payload: -
Powerplant: 4x Wright R-1820-97 turbosupercharged radial
74 ft 4 in
103 ft 9 in
19 ft 1 in
Empty Weight:
36,135 lbs
Loaded Weight:
54,000 lbs
Maximum Speed:
287 mph
Cruise Speed:
182 mph
Range: 2,000 mi
Service Ceiling: 35,600 ft
AMC Museum Restoration Crew Chief: Kevin Wysopal

Assignment History

The assignment history for the Air Mobility Command Museum's B-17G Flying Fortress, serial number 44-83624:

Date Location
Apr 1945 to 4100th Base Unit, Patterson Field, OH
Oct 1945 Declared excess
5 Nov 1945 Returned to military use
7 Nov 1945 to 4168th Base Unit, South Plains Field, TX
Jul 1947 to 4141st Base Unit, Pyote Field, TX
26 Oct 1947 to 4112th Base Unit, Olmstead AFB, PA
28 Oct 1947 to 4141st Base Unit, Pyote AFB, TX
Jan 1948 to 4112th Base Unit, Olmstead AFB, PA
2 Feb 1948 Designated MB-17G
15 Feb 1948 to 605th Base Unit, Eglin AFB, FL
16 Feb 1948 to 1st Experimental Guided Missile Group (Air Proving Ground Command), Eglin AFB, FL
Mar 1949 to 3200th Proof Test Group (APGC), Eglin AFB, FL
Nov 1949 Designated TB-17G
Jan 1950 to 550th Guided Missile Wing (APGC), Eglin AFB, FL
Jun 1950 to 3200th Proof Test Group (APGC), Eglin AFB, FL
Feb 1951 to 3201st Air Base Group (APGC), Eglin AFB, FL
1 Jun 1951 to 3200th Proof Test Group (APGC), Eglin AFB, FL
14 Jun 1951 to 3203rd Maintenance and Supply Group (APGC), Eglin AFB, FL
Jul 1951 to 3200th Proof Test Wing (APGC), Eglin AFB, FL
Sep 1951 to 3203rd Maintenance and Supply Group (APGC), Eglin AFB, FL
Oct 1951 to 3200th Proof Test Wing (APGC), Eglin AFB, FL
Nov 1951 to 3200th Drone Group (APGC), Eglin AFB, FL
Dec 1951 to 3203rd Maintenance and Supply Group (APGC), Eglin AFB, FL
Mar 1952 to 3205th Drone Group (APGC), Eglin AFB, FL
11 Aug 1952 to 3203rd Maintenance and Supply Group (APGC), Eglin AFB, FL
13 Aug 1952 to 3205th Drone Group (APGC), Eglin AFB, FL
1 Jun 1953 to 3203rd Maintenance and Supply Group (APGC), Eglin AFB, FL
22 Jun 1953 to 3205th Drone Group (APGC), Eglin AFB, FL
Nov 1953 to 3560th Pilot Training Wing (Air Training Command), Webb AFB, TX
Dec 1953 to 3205th Drone Group (APGC), Eglin AFB, FL
Jun 1954 to 3200th Maintenance Wing (APGC), Eglin AFB, FL
Oct 1954 to 3200th Test Wing (APGC), Eglin AFB, FL
4 Apr 1955 to Ogden Air Material Area, Hill AFB, UT
11 Apr 1955 to Middletown Air Material Area, Olmstead AFB, PA
1 Jun 1955 Designated DB-17P
7 Jun 1955 to 3205th Drone Group (APGC), Eglin AFB, FL
Jun 1957 Dropped from USAF inventory by transfer to museum
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My grandfather flew on the gal in the UK. I have pics of him and the crew plus his flight jacket if anyone would like to see!

Hi, My father was a waist gunner on the B17, Birmingham Jewell. He was in the original crew, piloted by Captain Walter Smith. I have several photos of the whole crew. Anyone know where I can share these photos? Would love to find family of other crewmembers…any recommendations would be greatly appreciated! Thank you!

Check out the Archives on the American Air Museum in Britain website. You can contribute to the archives as well as search and view pictures, details, and reports. Here’s a link to the archives page:
I found pictures of my great uncle (the tail gunner), and the crew with their B17. Their plane was nicknamed Sweet Lorraine (# 43-37620) and crashed near Cologne in January 1945. Hope you find some connections!

My dad, Leo Racine, was a B-17 pilot in the 8th Air Force at Bassingbourn, England. The brave young men of the greatest generation. “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.”

My father flew in a B-17 named the the Sleepy Time Gal too. The tail# were 2107112 D

That would be the actually bomber of the 381st that this plane honors then. My grandfather likely serviced that plane as an engine mechanic. I’m currently building a model of her.

My father was a pilot of Sleepy Time Gal, a B17, when it was shot down during a bombing run over maybe Schweinfurt in 1944-45. He kept in close touch with 3 members of his crew at least until 2005 when I met them at a 5th Airforce reunion in Savannah GA in 2005. The closeness of these guys was always something I could never totally grasp.

It was nice to see the old friend of seventy years ago. I flew Sleepytime Gal from our airbase, Great Ashfield, England, across the Atlantic to Bradley Field, Conn. in June of 1945. Even tho your B-17 has the same name as my plane, the tail number is not my Sleepy Time Gal. I have had some good and not so good memories of those times. My B-17 was part of the 385th Bomb gp. 550 sqd. 3rd Air Div.