Skip to main content

As desirable and rare as a B-17 Flying Fortress WWII bomber is, it’s amazing that they occasionally pop up for sale. Especially in 2021. From the late Paul Allen collection comes this B-17E project which you can buy. But the asking price will knock you back on your heels. 

With less than 50 left in the world this B-17 is rare

B-17E Flying Fortress
B-17 Flying Fortress | 12/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

An estimated 46 intact B-17s are left in the world. Only a dozen are airworthy. When you consider that there were over 12,000 produced, sometimes you wonder if there are a few more tucked away somewhere? But rather than waiting to discover one, it might be best to buy this one.

The asking price is $9 million, in case you were thinking about it. And this is a project; you’ll have to complete the restoration. Platinum Fighter Sales, the broker listing the B-17, says the frame is about 80-percent restored. Only the nose and cockpit await restoration. 

This B-17 is all there, but you’ll need to finish it

B-17 Flying Fortress engines
B-17 Flying Fortress | PFS

Included is everything you’ll need to finish things up. There are four turbocharged nine-cylinder 29.3-liter Wright radial engines. These produced over 12,000 hp. They also consumed almost a gallon of fuel per mile. 

Fuel capacity was 1,700 gallons, which could be increased to 3,630 gallons with “Tokyo tanks” added inside of the wings. However, that still wasn’t enough fuel to hit Japan from any US military base. Four correct Hamilton Standard three-bladed propellers are also included, with a span of almost 12-feet. The B-17s maximum speed was 300 mph at 30,000 feet. 

Partly the reason for the B-17s survival is that it didn’t see combat

B-17 Flying Fortress with crew
The crew of the Hell’s Angels Flying Fortress bomber looks on as Master Sergeant Folmer paints another bomb motif on the aircraft’s nose following its return from a successful raid | © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

Boeing was producing as many as 16 B-17s a day in 1944. This B-17 has survived partly because it didn’t see combat. It was used for experiments with emerging technologies during World War II. Once the war was over it was given to the University of Minnesota. It remained there on display in flying condition until 1952.

That is when it was traded for a Cessna 170. Even then it was a lopsided transaction favoring the B-17 recipient. The new owner used it for aerial mapping surveys in and around Canada. From there it was sold to a Bolivian freight and passenger service company. 

This has been an ongoing project since 1998

B-17 Flying Fortress fuselage
B-17 Flying Fortress | PFS

Meet the World’s 1st Flying Car to Get FAA Clearance for Takeoff

It stayed in Bolivia until 1990 when it made its way back to the US. In 1998 it was carted off to Vintage Airframes in Caldwell, Idaho, who performed all of the restoration work to this point. It has been an on-again, off-again project since then.  

No one can estimate how much more funds it will take to finish. Plan on at least a few million dollars more. If you can afford to cough up $9 million for a project, you’ve surely got what it takes to finish it up.