of the B-17 "Nine O Nine"
most widely recognized and revered aircraft type
of World War II, the B-17 Flying Fortress, takes
to the skies again. The B-17G (Serial # 44-83575)
has been returned to its wartime configuration
under the auspices of the nonprofit Collings Foundation
of Stow, MA and given the name "Nine-O-Nine".
The Collings Flying Fortress was built at Long
Beach, CA by the Douglas Aircraft Company and
accepted on April 7, 1945. Although she was
too late for combat, #44-83575 did serve as
part of the Air/Sea 1st Rescue Squadron and
later in the Military Air Transport Service.
In April 1952, #44-83575 was instrumented and
subjected to the effects of three different
nuclear explosions. After a thirteen-year "cool
down" period, #44-83575 was sold as part
of an 800-ton scrap pile and Aircraft Specialties
Company began the restoration of the aircraft.
skin was fabricated and replaced on site; engines
and props were stripped, cleaned, repaired,
and tested; four thousand feet of new control
cable was installed; all electrical wiring and
instrumentation was replaced. As she neared
completion, the jeers and laughter of those
who said she would never fly again faded as
the sounds of four 1200 HP Wright-Cyclone engines
echoed across the desert and "Yucca Lady"
rose as the phoenix and climbed into the sky.
For twenty years, without a major problem or
incident, #44-83575 served as a fire bomber
dropping water and borate on forest fires. She
was sold in January 1986 to the Collings Foundation.
Restored back to her original wartime configuration
by Tom Reilly Vintage Aircraft, she represented
one of the finest B-17 restorations and won
In August 1987, while performing at an airshow
in western Pennsylvania, "Nine-O-Nine"
was caught by a severe crosswind moments after
touchdown. The right wing lifted in the air,
finally coming down too far down the runway.
Despite the efforts of her crew, she rolled
off the end of the runway, crashed through a
chain link fence, sheared off a power pole and
roared down a 100-foot ravine to a thundering
stop. The landing gear sheared off, the chin
turret was smashed and pushed into the nose;
the Plexiglas nose was shattered; bomb bay doors,
fuselage, fuselage, ball turret, wing and nacelles
all took a tremendous beating. Engines and propellers
were also torn form their mounts. Fortunately,
there were no fatalities to the crew or riders
although there were injuries.
a second time, this B-17 "rose from the
ashes". With nacelles from the famed B-17
"Shoo Shoo Shoo Baby", thousands of
volunteer hours, support from the folks of Beaver
Falls, PA, and donations from individuals and
corporations, she was made whole again to carry
on the proud and rugged heritage of the B-17.
Since the crash at Beaver Falls, the B-17 has
succeeded in visiting over 1200 tour stops.
This means that millions, who would otherwise
never seen the Flying Fortress, have been able
to experience first hand the plane that helped
change the history of the world fifty years
The Collings Foundation B-17 was named "Nine-O-Nine"
in honor of a 91st Bomb Group, 323rd Squadron
plane of the same name which completed 140 missions
without an abort or loss of a crewman.
original "Nine-O-Nine" was assigned
to combat on February 25, 1944. By April 1945,
she had made eighteen trips to Berlin, dropped
562,000 pounds of bombs, and flown 1,129 hours.
She had twenty-one engine changes, four wing
panel changes, fifteen main gas tank changes,
and 18 Tokyo tank changes (long-range fuel tanks).
She also suffered from considerable flak damage.
After European hostilities ceased, "Nine-O-Nine",
with its six-hundred patched holes, flew back
to the United States. While the rigors of war
never stopped the historic "Nine-O-Nine",
she succumbed at last to the scrappers guillotine,
along with thousands of other proud aircraft.
Tax deductible contributions to help pay off
the annual operating costs of two thousand dollars
per hour can be sent to the Collings Foundation
at PO Box 248, Stow, MA. 10775.