Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, 1935 onwards (all marks) Owners' Workshop Manual. By Graeme Douglas. Minneapolis, MN: Zenith, 2011. Maps. Tables. Diagrams. Illustrations. Photographs. Notes. Appendices. Glossary. Index. Pp. 160. $28.00 ISBN: 0-7603-4077-3
If the figures in this book are accurate, there are about fifty B-17s extant in various states of repair in the world today. As the once ubiquitous crew chiefs and factory reps have faded from the scene, it falls to the devoted band of private owners, museum curators, custom industrial shops, and enthusiasts to preserve the body of knowledge regarding the care and feeding of these nearly seventy-year-old aircraft. Now, one of those devotees has recorded some of that knowledge. Douglas worked as a groundcrew member on the UK's airworthy B-17, Sally B, for 30 years and volunteered 15 years part time restoring the Imperial War Museum's Mary Alice at Duxford.
Owner's Manual Workshop is a highly readable and enjoyable book for the historian, buff, or warbird owner. The historical section refreshes the reader's memory as to the aircraft's achievements in all theaters of war. The anatomy chapter describes each B-17 component, from nose to tail, in great detail, with color and vintage photos showing each item wing, tail, radio room, bomb bay, engine nacelles--as they appeared in World War II and as they do now. The portions describing defensive positions compare favorably with the thorough coverage in such monographs as 2001's Gunner.
The book is an insight into owning, restoring, servicing and flying the B-17 in the 21st century. Douglas thoroughly covers the mechanical skills, responsibilities, and costs of maintaining a long-out-of-production, elderly warbird. The book's photo-illustrated, step-by-step essays on operational and maintenance aspects are unique, clear, and especially helpful to comprehending not only how to maintain and fly a B-17 today, but also to understanding the heroic efforts of wartime ground crews who kept the planes flying in combat conditions. It rounds out information in such publications as...