The Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress underwent many changes and modifications during the term of its lengthy production life from 1936 to 1945
The mainstay of the USAAF bombing campaign over occupied Europe it had originally rolled off Boeing’s Seattle assembly line equipped with 4 × Wright R-1820-97 “Cyclone” turbo-supercharged radial engines, delivering over 1,200 hp each and the bare minimum of defensive armament.
The USAAFs command believed that flying in ‘tight box’ like formation would make the B-17 invulnerable to enemy fighters and that escort fighters would not be required.
This initially proved to be the case but it did not take long for the Luftwaffe to discover that the B-17 was extremely vulnerable from certain angles and once separated from the main fleet, the lone aircraft could be picked off at will without the worry of accompanying allied fighters intercepting them.
The biggest issue for the Allies was that they simply did not have a long distance fighter available that could accompany the bombers both to and from their targets.
The British Spitfire, the USAAF P-38 Lightning and P-47 Thunderbolts simply did not have the range and could only provide limited cover for the daylight bomber fleets. Not long after crossing the European coast, they needed to peeled off and head home leaving the bomber crews at the mercy of the increasing number of Luftwaffe fighters circling above.
As a result, USAAF bomber losses rose at such an alarming rate that bomber operations were actually suspended after 60 B-17s were lost to fighters and enemy flak in a raid on the Schweinfurt ball-bearing factory on 17 August 1943. Two months later on another raid that was to become infamously known as ‘Black Thursday’, another 77 of the total bombing fleet of 291 B-17s were destroyed with another 122 being substantially damaged.
B-17 was increased so dramatically that the German pilots began referring to them as ‘flying porcupines’ but whilst the B-17 had gained a strong reputation for being able to sustain significant damage and still complete its mission - often returning on just one single undamaged engine, something had to change.
That change came with the introduction of the new P-51 Mustang which, equipped with drop tanks was able to accompany the USAAF bombers all the way there and all the way back.
The P-51’s effectiveness increased in further when the pilots were given permission to sweep far out ahead of the bomber fleets and intercept the Luftwaffe fighters before they could even sight the bombers.
Many argue that it was these ’roaming’ missions that finally broke the back of the Luftwaffe defences as the daily attrition on German aircraft and crews simply took their overwhelming toll.
Initially the B-17’s were equiped with the Bendix-Scintilla 10-17498/10-17698 Dual Magneto Switches mounted ahead of the aircraft's engines throttles slightly to the left of the central console. These were standard for the B Series up to the B-17F.
With further modifications, to the B-17’s instrumentation and electrically operated flight controls, the aircraft’s Magneto Switches were updated with the Briggs and Stratton 85787/85788. Both were interchangeable - operating on the same principle.
Two Briggs and Stratton Engine Magneto switches were mounted, one on top of the other, on the pilot’s side of the central throttle control panel.
Each were composed of two swing switches (one for each engine) which could engage that engine’s starter batteries or combine both in tandem. An extended Master On/Off Lever was located at the top of the Switch which could kill both engines simultaneously.
Boeing later introduced an after-service, optional Locking Lever which was bolted over both Magneto Master On/Off Levers to enable all four engines to be killed at once.
The retro-fitted Locking Lever also avoided accidental engine deactivation which had become a significant issue along with exhausted pilots confusing the almost identical Flap and Undercarriage Switches resulting in catastrophoic crashes on take-offs or landings.
This original B-17 Flying Fortress, Briggs and Stratto Engine Magneto Switch is the rarer of the B-17 Magneto Switches and appears to be fully operational with all switches rotating easily between one or both battery sources and with its highly detailed, custom-built model of this iconic USAAF bomber perched above its 100yr old Mango Wood display stand, its sure to be a treasured talking point for many generations to come.
This B-17 Flying Fortress Instrument comes complete with detailed Scale Model, Mango Wood Stand & Plaque plus Printed Fact Sheet featuring photo of instrument in aircraft cockpit.
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Your B-17 Flying Fortress, Briggs and Stratton B5 Engine Magneto Switch, Original Recovery Curios Warbird Collectable includes:
- Original Warbird Collectable
- Highly detailed, hand-built and airbrushed 1/72 plastic scale model of the aircraft.
- Hand-crafted and beautifully finished 100yr, Far North Queensland Mango Wood display stand
- Detailed, 2-sided, printed and laminated Instrument Fact Sheet detailing aircraft and instrument
- Removable Magnetic Display Arm
The 1/72 highly detailed scale model is available with wheels & flaps ‘up or down’ and ‘Bomb bay open or closed'
Your complete Recovery Curios Original Instrument Collectable is securely packed and delivery normally takes between 6 - 8 weeks approx.
Did you fly, crew or maintain a a B-17 Flying Fortress or have a friend, colleague or family member who did? Check out our PERSONALISED ORIGINAL INSTRUMENT COLLECTABLE OPTION here.