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Home > Fact Sheets > Boeing XB-17 (Model 299)


Posted 6/25/2009 Printable Fact Sheet
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Boeing XB-17
Boeing XB-17 (Model 299) in flight. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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The 299 was the prototype of the B-17 Flying Fortress, probably the most significant air weapon of its time. In 1921 Army bombers in a special demonstration for the Navy, sank the captured German Battleship Frankfurt by air bombing. At that time there was a great deal of discussion about the role of the airplane as a weapon. It was recognized that an airplane which could carry a large bomb load a considerable distance from its base, and be able to defend itself from enemy fighters, would be desirable. Neither aircraft design nor materials, however, had advanced enough to make such a thing possible.

In 1930 C.L. Egtvedt, of Boeing, who had been present when the Frankfurt was sunk, delivered a Boeing fighter to the Navy. A Navy officer remarked to him that, despite all the progress aviation had made, there still was no aerial counter part for the battleship -- an airplane that could operate far from its base, deliver a heavy blow to the enemy and protect itself from attack.

In 1934 when the Army first announced its competition for "multiengine" bombers, Boeing engineers went to work to give shape to the design that Egtvedt had formed as a result of these discussions. The project was financed entirely with company funds. 

Approximately a year later, on a flight from Seattle, Wash., to Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio, for the Army tests, the 299 averaged 252 mph, setting a nonstop record for the distance.

Although the airplane later was destroyed, when an Army pilot took off with the controls locked, the Army was sufficiently impressed in the potential of this new bomber to place a service order for 13. It was then that the bomber received its designation: B-17.

Type Number built/
XB-17 1 B-17 prototype

Five .30-cal. or five .50-cal. machine guns and eight 600-lb. bombs
Engine: Four Pratt & Whitney R-1690 radials of 750 hp each
Top speed: 236 mph
Cruising speed: 140 mph
Range: 3010 miles maximum
Service ceiling: 24,620 ft.
Span: 103 ft. 9 3/8 in.
Length: 68 ft. 9 in.
Height: 14 ft. 11 15/16 in.
Weight: 32,432 lbs. gross

Click on the following links for more information about Model 299.

War Department press release for Model 299 (July 5, 1935)
Crash of the Model 299

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