The Federal Aviation Administration recently issued a directive to ground all Boeing B-17E, F and G models of the Flying Fortress aircraft.
The interim move, published on May 17, is meant to address concerns over a wing-related safety issue with the World War II-era airplanes. It requires inspections of the “wing terminal-to-spar chord joints” and subsequent repairs, if necessary.
“The FAA is issuing this [airworthiness directive] because the agency has determined the unsafe condition described previously is likely to exist or develop in other products of the same type design,” the agency said in the document.
The agency estimates this decision affects 18 U.S.-registered airplanes, approximately three of which are currently in flying condition while several others are undergoing restoration. One additional Flying Fortress is in operation in the United Kingdom.
Some in the warbird community anticipated the ruling and ceased flight operations in advance as a precaution.
The Yankee Air Museum in Michigan decided in April to stop flying its B-17G “Yankee Lady,” according to according to HistoryNet. The other flyable Flying Fortresses impacted include the Arizona-based “Sentimental Journey” and the Ericson Aircraft Collection’s “Ye Olde Pub” in Oregon.
This is not the first time the B-17 has yielded concerns with the wing spars. The FAA previously issued an airworthiness directive in 2001, which called for inspections to detect cracking and corrosion of the wing spar chords, bolts and bolt holes.
Separately, in November 2022, one of the historic B-17 military planes collided and crashed with another vintage aircraft during an airshow in Texas, killing six people aboard the planes.
This current airworthiness directive goes into effect on June 1, though comments are being taken until July 3.
Jonathan is a staff writer and editor of the Early Bird Brief newsletter for Military Times. Follow him on Twitter @lehrfeld_media