Pacific Aero Press Books


B-17 Tail Turret

B-17G Flying Fortress - Cheyenne Tail Turret

B-17s were flown from the factory to United Air Lines' Cheyenne, Wyoming, modification center where, among other mods, the B-17 stinger tail gunners compartment was modified. New, larger windows and a "pumpkin" mount for the twin .50 caliber machine guns were added.

These photos show the turret when it arrived from Kal Aero in San Diego after the basic restoration work had been completed. For those B-17 nuts, the turret isn't "right"...yet. Future planned modifications include new paint, a new stand (just say "No" to lame carts!), removing the false floor, installing the interior fittings such as the oxygen and communications systems, guns and gun mounts. Also, the windows will have to be re-installed.

It is still under restoration, which will be on-going as time and money allow.

The turret really needs the gunsight mount. Can you help?

B-17 Still on the plane

Lockheed-Vega built B-17G-110-VE, serial number 44-85829, at its Burbank, California-factory, and delivered the aircraft on July 16, 1945. The aircraft later flew for the U.S. Coast Guard and was sold surplus on May 11, 1959. The Flying Fortress flew in the movie "Tora, Tora, Tora," and was operated as a fire bomber by Aircraft Specialties, and Globe Air, both of Mesa, Arizona. At some point in its career, the tail turret was metalized as shown here.

(Information courtesy Scott Thompson, B-17 expert and author of "Final Cut: The Post-War B-17 Flying Fortress: The Survivors." Check out Scott's website Photo courtesy Todd Hackbarth)

Awaiting Restoration

In June 1986, the Yankee Air Force Museum acquired 44-85829 from Globe Air. The YAF has done a tremendous job restoring the B-17 back to its original condition. When the museum was offered a Cheyenne tail gunner's position in better condition by the Lone Star Flight Museum, they jumped at the opportunity. The original, metalized tail gunner's compartment was removed, and the Yankee Air Force added it to their list of material open for trade. I was able to arrange a trade with the Yankee Air Force Museum for the tail gunner's compartment in the early 1990s. It sat in my backyard until I was able to arrange the restoration services of Ed Kaletta of Kal Aero in San Diego.

Restoration Project
Phase I

On the road home from San Diego. My friend and world-class aircraft restorer Taigh Ramey of Vintage Aircraft at the Stockton Airport, pulled the trailer home. We got some pretty surprising looks as we hauled the turret home. Many people couldn't understand how it floated with "them big slots in the front." I guess they thought it was some type of submarine. Getting gas or something to eat is always an adventure when hauling airplane parts...

Restoration Project

The false floor will have to be removed, and the seat installed on the fuselage floor. The seat was built by Mike Kellner, owner of the B-17E (XC-108A) serial number 41-2595. Kellner's craftsmanship is evident in the tiny details of the seat and how it operates. Interior fittings, such as the oxygen and communciation system need to be installed. The turret also needs a pair of E-11 gun mounts, the gunsight mount and armor glass. If you have one for sale or trade, or know of one that can be copied, please contact me.

Restoration Project
Start of Phase II

If you can imagine, all of the correct parts to restore the B-17 tail turret showed up on Ebay the other day. I was lucky enough to be the high bidder and acquired the parts. (Looks like I'll be selling some stuff in the near future, and I've already redeemed my aluminum cans to raise enough money to cover the parts...) After the parts arrived, it appears as if someone carefully removed all of the Cheyenne modification parts from a B-17 and then let them sit for 50 years or so.

Boeing Factory Photos
Cheyenne Tail Turret

Interior shot of B-17G-110-BO s/n 43-39289 taken on Jan. 23, 1945. Notice the lack of armor plate, the light in the upper left of the pumpkin, and the "locking bar" to secure the pumpkin when not in use.
(Boeing Photo 86841-B)

Boeing Factory Photos
Sidewall Installation

Although this Boeing photo is captioned as the left sidewall, when compared to the photo above, you'll see that this is actually the right, or starboard side of the aircraft. Note the position of the ammo box in both photos.
This picture shows the oxygen installation detail, a panel that I acquired in my Alaska parts haul. (Boeing Photo 42441-B)

Boeing Factory Photos

Factory photo of the "Steeplechase" or "Stinger" tail compartment of the B-17F and unmodified B-17G. Note the armor plate and the small gunner's window.

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