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Accidents and incidents involving the Boeing B 17 Flying Fortress

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Accidents and incidents involving the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress

This is a partial list of accidents and incidents involving the Boeing-designed B-17 Flying Fortress. Combat losses are not included except for a very few cases denoted by singular circumstances. A few documented drone attrition cases are also included.


Aircraft were constructed by a three firm consortium, Boeing, Vega and Douglas, known by the acronym BVD. Boeing built airframes at their plant in Seattle, Washington and their production models were appended -BO. Douglas Aircraft Company constructed airframes at Long Beach, California with a -DL suffix. The Vega Aircraft Corporation, a subsidiary of the Lockheed Aircraft Company, at Burbank, California, delivered airframes with the -VE suffix.


  • 30 October 1935 - Prototype Boeing Model 299, NX13372, 'X13372', c/n 1963, the future B-17, crashes on take-off from Wright Field, Ohio, due to locked control surfaces, killing early military aviator and test pilot Maj. Ployer Peter Hill. Other engineers taken to hospital with injuries. Boeing test pilot and observer Les Tower died later. Ogden Air Depot, Utah, renamed Hill Field, (later Hill Air Force Base), on 1 December 1939. As the prototype was owned by Boeing, it had no USAAC serial.
  • 7 December 1936 - First Y1B-17, 36-149, c/n 1973, first flown 2 December, makes rough landing at Boeing Field, Seattle, Washington, on third flight, when Army pilot Stanley Umstead touches down with locked brakes, airframe ends up on nose after short skid. Repaired, Flying Fortress departs for Wright Field on 11 January 1937.
  • 1940s

  • 18 December 1940 - Y1B-17, 36-157, c/n 1981, of the 2d Bomb Group, Langley Field, Virginia, crashed E of San Jacinto, California, en route to March Field, California.
  • 6 February 1941 - B-17B Flying Fortress, 38-216, c/n 2009, crashes near Lovelock, Nevada while en route to Wright Field, Ohio, killing all eight on board. Pilot Capt. Richard S. Freeman had shared the 1939 MacKay Trophy for the Boeing XB-15 flight from Langley Field, Virginia via Panama and Lima, Peru at the request of the American Red Cross, for delivering urgently needed vaccines and other medical supplies in areas of Chile devastated by an earthquake. General Order Number 10, dated 3 March 1943, announces that the advanced flying school being constructed near Seymour, Indiana is to be named Freeman Field in honor of the Hoosier native.
  • 22 June 1941 - Royal Air Force Boeing Fortress I, AN522, of No. 90 Squadron, RAF Great Massingham, flown by F/O J. C. Hawley, breaks up in mid-air over Yorkshire during a training flight. Single survivor, a medical officer from RAE Farnborough, reports that the bomber entered a cumulo-nimbus cloud at 33,000 feet (10,100 m), became heavily iced-up with hailstones entering through open gunports, after which control was lost, the port wing detached, and the fuselage broke in two at 25,000 feet (7,600 m). Survivor, who was in the aft fuselage, was able to bail out at 12,000 feet (3,700 m).
  • 3 July 1941 - Royal Air Force Boeing Fortress I, AN528, of No. 90 Squadron, RAF Polebrook, is destroyed when a troublesome engine catches fire during a late-night ground run.
  • 2 November 1941 - B-17C, 40-2047, of the 7th Bomb Group, en route from Salt Lake City, Utah, to McClellan Field, near Sacramento, California, enters a winter storm over the Sierras, stalls at 18,000 feet and spins in, coming down near Georgetown, California, ~30 miles NE of Placerville. Eight of nine crew successfully parachute down, pilot is KWF. Scattered wreckage is still where it fell.
  • 3 April 1942 - The 303rd Bomb Group, activated at Pendleton Field, Oregon, on 3 February 1942, suffers its first fatal aircraft accident when three flying officers and five enlisted crew are killed in the crash of a B-17E-BO, 41-9053, six miles (10 km) N of Strevell, Idaho during a training mission.
  • 27 June 1942 - During Operation Bolero, the ferrying of combat aircraft from the U.S. to England by air, B-17E-BO, 41-9090, c/n 2562, ditches in a Greenland fjord near Narasak. Attempts have been made to locate the airframe, particularly by noted recovery expert Gary Larkins, but it has yet to be found. Provisionally assigned the FAA registration N3142U if it can be found and retrieved from 1,500 feet of water.
  • 15 July 1942 - During Operation Bolero, the ferrying of combat aircraft from the U.S. to England by air, a flight of two B-17E-BO Flying Fortresses, 41-9101, c/n 2573, "Big Stoop", and 41-9105, c/n 2577, "Do-Do", of the 97th Bomb Group and six P-38F Lightnings of the 94th Fighter Squadron, 1st Fighter Group, on the 845-mile (1,360 km) leg between Bluie West 8 airfield and Reykjavík, Iceland, run out of fuel after being held up by bad weather, and all force-land on the Greenland icecap. All safely belly in except for the first P-38 which attempts a wheels-down landing, flipping over as nosewheel catches a crevasse, but pilot Lt. Brad McManus unhurt. All crews rescued on 19 July, but aircraft are abandoned in place. One P-38F-1-LO, 41-7630, c/n 222-5757, now known as "Glacier Girl", recovered in 1992 from under 200 feet (61 m) of accumulated snow and ice and rebuilt to flying status, registered N17630. One B-17 ("Big Stoop") also found, but it is too badly crushed for recovery. Although the USAAF had expected to lose 10 percent of the 920 planes that made the North Atlantic transit during Bolero, losses were only 5.2 percent, the majority being involved in this single incident.
  • 23 August 1942 - B-17E-BO, 41-9091, of the 427th Bomb Squadron, 303rd Bomb Group, operating out of Biggs Field, El Paso, Texas, suffers center fuselage failure in extremely bad weather 12 miles W of Las Cruces, New Mexico, only the radio operator and the engineering officer for the 427th Bomb Squadron, both in the radio room, survive by parachuting. Pilot was James E. Hudson. The 303rd BG was due to deploy overseas from Biggs on 24 August.
  • 17 September 1942 - A B-17E, 41-2650, of the 93d Bombardment Squadron, 19th Bombardment Group, based at Mareeba airfield in north Queensland, Australia, departed Seven Mile Aerodrome at Port Moresby to bomb Rabaul. Piloted by 2nd Lt. Claude N. Burckey, the crew completed the mission and set an initial return path for Port Moresby, which was clouded in, and then for Horn Island. The aircraft became lost and ran out of fuel over Cape York, Australia. The crew bailed out, and the aircraft crashed N of Weipa. 1st. Lt. William F. Meenagh (0-372623) was never found, the other eight crew members survived.
  • 21 October 1942 - B-17D, 40-3089, of the 5th Bomb Group/11th Bomb Group, with Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker, America's top-scoring World War I ace (26 kills), aboard on a secret mission, is lost at sea in the central Pacific Ocean when the bomber goes off-course. After 24 days afloat in three rafts, he and surviving crew are rescued by the U.S. Navy after having been given up for lost, discovered by OS2U Kingfisher crew.
  • 30 December 1942 - B-17F-35-BO, 42-5123, of the 20th Bomb Squadron, 2d Bomb Group, Great Falls Army Air Base, Montana, piloted by Edward T. Layfield, crashes near Musselshell, Montana. Capt. John Lloyd, public relations officer at the Great Falls base, said that eleven aboard were killed.
  • 3 January 1943 - B-17F-27-BO, 41-24620, "snap! crackle! pop!", of the 360th Bomb Squadron, 303rd Bomb Group, on daylight raid over Saint-Nazaire, France, loses wing due to flak, goes into spiral. Ball turret gunner Alan Eugene Magee (13 January 1919 – 20 December 2003), though suffering 27 shrapnel wounds, bails out (or is thrown from wreckage) without his chute at ~20,000 feet (6,100 m), loses consciousness due to altitude, freefall plunges through glass roof of the Gare de Saint-Nazaire and is found alive but with serious injuries on floor of depot - saved by German medical care, spends rest of war in prison camp.
  • 30 May 1943 - A B-17F-45-BO, 42-5318, of the 464th Bomb Squadron, 331st Bomb Group, out of Casper Army Air Field, Wyoming, piloted by James O. Westbury, crashes into a mountainside ~10 miles NW of Covelo, California, during a training mission killing all six crew. Some wreckage remains at the site.
  • 3 June 1943 - A B-17F-55-DL, 42-3399, "Scharazad", of the Plummer Provisional Group, 318th Bomb Squadron, flying to Grand Island, Nebraska from Pendleton Army Air Base in Oregon crashes on Bomber Mountain in the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming. 10 crew members were killed. Wreckage finally discovered on 12 August 1945.
  • 14 June 1943 - B-17C, 40-2072, "Miss E.M.F." (Every Morning Fixing), of the 19th Bomb Group, heavily damaged on Davao mission 25 December 1941 and converted into transport. With 46th Troop Carrier Squadron, 317th Troop Carrier Group, crashed Bakers Creek, Queensland, Australia, this date while ferrying troops to New Guinea. Six crew and 34 GIs killed. One survived. (see Bakers Creek air crash) A memorial to the victims of this crash was installed at the Selfridge Gate of Arlington National Cemetery on 11 June 2009, donated by the Bakers Creek Memorial Association. The gate is named for Lt. Thomas Selfridge, killed in a 1908 crash at Fort Myer, Virginia, the first victim of a powered air accident.
  • 16 June 1943 - B-17E-BO converted to XB-38-VE, 41-2401, with Allison V-1710 liquid-cooled engines. Wrecked near Tipton, California, on its ninth test flight when the number three (starboard inner) engine caught fire. Attempts to extinguish it were unsuccessful, and as the fire spread to the wing, the pilots bailed out after pointing the aircraft to an uninhabited area. Lockheed test pilot George MacDonald was killed when his parachute did not deploy, and Lockheed test pilot Bud Martin was seriously injured when his parachute did not deploy properly.
  • 2 August 1943 - B-17E-BO, 41-2463, "Yankee Doodle", of the 19th Bomb Group, then to 394th Bomb Squadron, 5th Bomb Group, crashes on takeoff due mechanical failure at Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides, Bombardier Sgt. John P. Kruger and navigator Lt. Talbert H. Woolam are killed. Pilot was Gene Roddenberry, future creator of Star Trek. The airframe was stricken on 13 August 1943.
  • 9 December 1943 - 'The Galley Uncle', number 42-31468, crashed in a field adjacent to Graan Monastery, near Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. Seven crew members died and five were saved by local monks.
  • 9 April 1944 - B-17G-35-VE, 42-97854, of the 390th Bomb Group, on a ferry flight from the United States to England, piloted by George L. Williamson, ditches in the Graah Fjord, Greenland this date (another source states that it was ditched in Lageons Fjord). Attempts by noted aircraft recovery expert Gary Larkins to locate the airframe have been unsuccessful. MACR report 3637. FAA registration N9094V to Institute of Aeronautical Archaeological Research of Auburn, California, provisionally assigned to this airframe.
  • 24 April 1944 - B-17G-55-BO, 42-102685, of the 271st Air Base Unit, Kearney Army Airfield, Kearney, Nebraska, crashes six miles N of Bertrand, Nebraska, after an oxygen fire breaks out in flight. Six crew bail out but both pilots are killed. Dead were 2d Lt. Thomas G. Eppinger, pilot, of Huntington Woods, Michigan; and 2d Lt. Robert D. Shaw, co-pilot, of Vicksburg, Mississippi. Survivors were 2d Lt. Voris H. Fabik, navigator, of East St. Louis, Illinois; 2d Lt. Lewis E. Louraine, bombardier, of Purcell, Oklahoma; 2d Lt. Robert Durocher, assistant bombardier, hometown not available; S/Sgt. Clifford M. Bowen, engineer, of Jefferson, Oregon; S/Sgt. Obert M. Lay, radioman, of Aurora, Illinois; and Sgt. James T. Grantham, waist gunner, of Phoenix, Arizona.
  • 11 July 1944 - A U.S. Army Air Force B-17G-75-BO, 44-38023, en route from Kearney Army Airfield, Nebraska, to Dow Field, Maine, for overseas deployment, crashes into Deer Mountain in Parkertown Township in North Oxford, Maine, during a thunderstorm, killing all ten crew: Sgt. James A. Benson, Sgt. Gerald V. Biddle, 2nd Lt. John T. Cast, 2nd Lt. John W. Drake, 2nd Lt. William Hudgens, Cpl. John H. Jones, Staff Sgt. Wayne D. McGavran, Sgt. Cecil L. Murphy, 2nd Lt. Robert S. Talley, and Sgt. Clarence M. Waln. Locals saw the plane circling before it struck terrain 500 feet below the summit. It apparently descended below the clouds, struck treetops, and cartwheeled across the mountainside. Two days later, after a search by more than 100 spotters from the Civil Air Patrol, the Army Air Force, the Navy, and the Royal Canadian Air Force, the B-17’s wreckage was found on the side of the mountain. This was the second worst military crash in Maine history, occurring the same day as an A-26 Invader crash at Portland that killed 21.
  • 23 April 1945 - A U.S. Army Air Forces B-17G-95-BO, 43-38856, 'GD-M', of the 381st Bombardment Group (Heavy), crashed into the east facing slope of North Barrule in the Isle of Man killing 31 US service personnel (including ground crew) en route to Belfast for memorial service for President Roosevelt.
  • 5 August 1945 - A TB-17G, built as a B-17G-70-BO, 43-37700, of the 325th Combat Crew Training Squadron, Avon Park Army Airfield, Florida, crashes six miles S of Ridgeland, South Carolina, after the number 2 (port inner) engine catches fire at 10,000 feet during a flight from Stewart Field, New York, to its home base in Florida. Pilot Lieutenant Dewey O. Jones orders the crew to abandon ship. An announcement released by the Hunter Field, Georgia, public relations office states that five parachuted safely, three were killed, and that two other men were missing. Listed as fatalities are Flight Officer Alfred Ponessa, of Newburgh, New York, a passenger, Sergeant Leo B. Bucharia, of Long Island, New York, and Technical Sergeant Edwin S. Salas, of Haverhill, Massachusetts, both members of the crew. The missing were listed as Lieutenant William Cherry and Corporal Sidney Podhoretz (addresses not available). The names of the other four survivors were not given.
  • 9 July 1946 - Eight USAAF crew, 16 U.S. Coast Guardsmen, returning from duty in Greenland, and one civilian are killed when the B-17G-105-BO, 43-39136, c/n 10114, they are flying in crashes into Mount Tom, Massachusetts, at ~2220 hrs. while attempting to land at Westover Field, Massachusetts. A monument to the victims was dedicated on the crash site on 6 July 1996.
  • 14 January 1947 - B-17G-95-VE, 44-85588, of the Flight Test Division, Air Materiel Command, Wright Field, Ohio, crashes through a rain-soaked swamp thicket, cutting a 500-yard swath through the underbrush, rams a tree and burns at ~1810 hrs., coming down ~3 miles NE of Fairfield, and ~3 miles NW of Patterson Field, where the pilot apparently intended to land. The crash, coming at the end of a routine test flight to Lawson Field, Fort Benning, Georgia, and return, kills three crew and leaves one injured. Dead are Maj. Walter L. Massengill of Dayton, the pilot; Master Sgt. Lee P. Hartman, engineer, and Warrant Officer Benedict F. Jacquay. The injured crewman is Lt. Marvin C. Rice, copilot. Other home towns were unavailable, said Wright Field officials.
  • 15 August 1947 - B-17H, 43-39473, with 10th Air Rescue Squadron, built as a B-17G-110-BO, crashes after takeoff ~2 miles from Fort Randall Army Airfield, Cold Bay, Alaska, this date, killing all eight on board. Pilot was Marion E. Calender. Some wreckage still there.
  • 24 December 1947 - Boeing B-17G-95-DL Flying Fortress, 44-83790, of the 1385th Base Unit, Bluie West One, Greenland, delivering presents and mail to isolated outposts on Baffin Bay, runs out of fuel on Christmas Eve and pilot Chester M. Karney makes a forced landing on snow-laden frozen Dyke Lake in Labrador. None of the nine aboard are injured and they are picked up on 26 December by a ski and JATO-equipped Douglas C-47. Officers at Atlantic Division headquarters of Air Transport Command, Westover Air Force Base, Massachusetts, said that a snowstorm earlier in the day delayed one flight by the C-47 to fetch the seven crew and two passengers off the ice and that they had prepared to spend a third night in the sub-zero temperatures. But a successful rescue was achieved and the marooned flown 275 miles to Goose Bay. Fortress abandoned and sinks to the bottom of lake. Aircraft located in July 1998; recovered from the lake on 9 September 2004. Now under restoration to fly at Douglas, Georgia.
  • 30 January 1948 :A Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, searching for the Douglas C-47 that went missing on 27 January in France, spots the downed transport on the mountainside, and then itself crashes and burns. Only one member of the ten crew survives, Sgt. Angelo LaSalle, of Des Moines, Iowa. He is aided by a former Luftwaffe pilot, Horst Kupski, a prisoner-of-war working for a French farmer, who lends him garments and helps him down the mountain.
  • 5 November 1948 – A DB-17G, 44-83678, returning to Eglin AFB, Florida, from Fort Wayne, Indiana, crashes in woods SE of Auxiliary Field 2, Pierce Field due to pilot error, crashing and burning NE of the runway at Eglin main base early Friday. All five on board are KWF, including Lt. Col. Frederick W. Eley, 43, of Shalimar, Florida, staff judge advocate at Eglin for nearly three years – he was returning from his grandmother's funeral in Portland, Indiana; Maj. Bydie J. Nettles, 29, who lived in Shalimar, Florida but was originally from Pensacola, Florida, group adjutant for the 3203rd Maintenance and Supply section; Capt. Robert LeMar, 31, Ben's Lake, Eglin AFB, test pilot with the 3203rd; crew chief M/Sgt. Carl LeMieux, 31, of Milton, Florida; and Sgt. William E. Bazer, 36, assistant engineer, Destin, Florida. Bazer's wife was the Eglin base librarian.
  • 1950s

  • 16 October 1950 - A QB-17G, 44-83565, of the 3200th Drone Squadron, piloted by Emerson N. Hixson, is involved in a ground accident at Eglin AFB, Florida, due to weather, receiving moderate damage.
  • 8 November 1950 - SB-17G, 43-39364, of the 3d Air Rescue Squadron, is heavily damaged while parked when struck by SB-17G, 43-39365, of the same unit, at Ashiya Air Base, Japan, when its hydraulics failed. The noses of both are wrecked and both are written off.
  • 1 November 1951 - 44-83699 is subjected to the Easy shot of the Operation Buster–Jangle atomic weapons tests as a ground target.
  • 19 January 1952 - SB-17G, 44-85746, built as B-17G-105-VE, accepted May 1945, based at McChord AFB, Washington, returning from a search and rescue mission, strikes a ridge near Tyler Peak on the Olympic peninsula, killing 3 crew, 5 survive. Wreckage is still there.
  • 4 January 1953 - A VB-17G, 44-85576, of the 6600th Air Base Unit, Pepperrell AFB, St. Johns, Newfoundland, Canada, piloted by Joseph H. Huau, Jr., suffers moderate damage during a landing accident at Bolling AFB, Washington, D.C., due to mechanical failure.
  • 26 August 1953 - U.S. Coast Guard PB-1G Flying Fortress, BuNo 77253, ex-44-85827, loses brakes while landing at NAS Sand Point, near Seattle, Washington, overruns runway, crushes nose as it ends up in Lake Washington. Retrieved and sold for salvage.
  • 26 May 1954 - A Republic of China Air Force B-17 crashed near Fujian, People's Republic of China. "Pilot Nie Jing Yuan, four crew members and four agents that were to be airdropped, were all killed. The People's Republic of China did not make a claim to have shot the aircraft down, so it might have suffered an accident."
  • 26 June 1956 - An F-89H Scorpion downed a remote-controlled target QB-17 Flying Fortress over the Eglin water ranges with a Hughes GAR-1 Falcon, "the first time the missile has been employed to destroy a target ship in a simulated air defense environment." Lt. Col. Louis E. Andre, Jr., from the 3241st Test Group, Interceptor, of APGC and his radar observer, Squadron Leader George T. E. Richards of the Royal Air Force, were credited with the kill. The Falcon is designed to be launched by the F-89H and the F-102A Delta Dagger interceptors. "The missile as well as the Scorpion and the F-102A are presently undergoing operational suitability testing at the Air Force Operational Test Center."
  • 30 June 1956 - An F-102A Delta Dagger downed a remotely controlled QB-17 Flying Fortress over the Eglin water ranges with a Hughes GAR-1 Falcon on this date, announced Air Proving Ground Commander Maj. Gen. Robert W. Burns, the second drone to fall prey to the air-to-air missile within a week at the APGC.
  • 1 November 1956 - A third QB-17 drone kill was achieved by a Hughes GAR-1 Falcon fired from a F-102A Delta Dagger of the 3201st Test Group (Interceptor), flown by Maj. Robert T. Goetz on this date over the Eglin water ranges. The drone had been previously damaged by an earlier hit during the same mission, fired by Capt. William T. Quirk. Goetz had been credited with one of the two QB-17 kills during June 1956.
  • 1960s

  • 29 August 1967 - B-17G-95-DL, 44-83857, later PB-1W, BuNo 77226, to civil register as N7228C. Destroyed in crash at 0927 hrs. at Kalispell, Montana while in use as a fire bomber, after making wheels-up landing due to smoke in the cockpit, killing two crew according to one source, no fatalities according to an NTSB report, which seems more credible as the co-pilot reported that the fire began in the accessory section of the number three (starboard inner) engine. Jettisoned load before touch down.
  • 1970s

  • 18 August 1970 - B-17F-50-VE, 42-6107, c/n 6403, to TB-17F, to civil register as N1340N. Reengined with Rolls-Royce Dart turboprops in 1969. Crashed at 1637 hrs. during fire bomber run while operated by Aero Flite on down slope side of mountain near Dubois, Wyoming, with density altitude of ~13,000 feet, winds of 25-35 mph, updrafts and downdrafts. Pilot misjudged altitude and clearance, failed to maintain flight speed, aircraft stalled and struck trees. Two crew killed.
  • 12 July 1972 - B-17G-95-DL, 44-83864, c/n 32505, later to PB-1W, BuNo 77232, registered successively N6465D, N5234V, XB-BOE, and finally N73648, operated as a fire bomber 'E56' by Black Hills Aviation. Destroyed 20 mi SW of Socorro, New Mexico when the pilot misjudged his altitude during his second slurry drop and struck trees at 1605 hrs., killing two crew.
  • 12 July 1973 - B-17G-110-VE, 44-85840, c/n 8749, to Bolivian registry with Lloyd Aero Boliviano, November 1956, as CP-620, back to U.S. in 1968 with Aircraft Specialties, Inc. of Mesa, Arizona as N620L. Used in 1970 film Tora! Tora! Tora! Crashed near Elko, Nevada during fire bomber run, updrafts and downdrafts, 40 knot winds. Following steep turn downwind over downslope of mountain, pilot failed to maintain airspeed, stalled, two crew killed.
  • 5 August 1976 - B-17G-110-VE, 44-85812, later PB-1G, BuNo 77246, to civil register as N4710C and used for fire ant spraying by Dothan Aviation, destroyed in accident near Rochelle, Georgia. NTSB report gives cause as fire in or near carburetor, forcing emergency landing at 0815 hrs., airframe burned. Another source cites crash site as Blakely, Georgia.
  • 1980s

  • 25 July 1989 - B-17G-100-VE, 44-85643, c/n 8552, F-BEEA, of the Institut géographique national, destroyed when it hit a tree and a pile of gravel during takeoff at RAF Binbrook, United Kingdom, during filming of Memphis Belle.  Aircraft destroyed by fire, but ten on board escape.  This airframe had been the camera ship during filming of Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb in 1964, whose shadow makes an accidental cameo on the arctic ice pack below the B-52 Stratofortress attacking Russia.
  • 2010s

  • 13 June 2011 - B-17G-105-VE, 44-85734, registered N390TH, previously N5111N, named Liberty Belle and operated by the Liberty Foundation of Tulsa, Oklahoma, as a flying history exhibit, suffered an in-flight fire in port wing behind #2 engine while on a positioning flight from Aurora, Illinois to Indianapolis, Indiana. The crew made an emergency landing in a field near Oswego, Illinois 20 minutes after takeoff. Three crew and four passengers escaped safely before fire consumed the airframe.
  • References

    Accidents and incidents involving the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress Wikipedia