Up Close and Personal with Sally B: Europe’s Last Airworthy Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress

If you haven’t already, meet the mighty Sally B. – Charity ambassador, movie star, flying memorial, survivor. Join War History Online for an intimate view inside the Sally B in this tasteful tribute to an important and valuable warplane and the B-17 that Sally B represented in film, the legendary Memphis Belle.

Sally B is Europe’s last airworthy Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress and since the year 2000, Sally B has represented the B-17 Charitable Trust. In her role as the Trust’s representative, she flies as a tribute to the servicemen who braved the European skies in WWII and the B-17s that were critical to the war effort.

Sally B is one of only a handful of airworthy B-17 Flying Fortresses in existence, and certainly one of the most impressive. She was delivered to the United States Army Air Force in June 1945, fashionably late to the conflict, and spent the next thirty years as a training and a survey aircraft.

In 1975 Sally B was restored to wartime condition but had a precarious survival into the 21st century. Despite being almost permanently grounded on a few occasions, at Duxford ‘Meet The Fighters’ 2016, Sally B again wowed the crowd with awe-inspiring aerial prowess. War History Online was there to capture the special moments, as this proud B-17 took to the air in another spectacular flight.

The Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress is one of the most visually iconic planes of WWII vintage, and as one of the last B-17s in airworthy condition, Sally B has received some celebrity status as an actress. She featured in the 1982 British hit historical drama We’ll Meet Again and landed a prominent role in 1990’s major film production Memphis Belle, in which Sally B handled the scenes that required pyrotechnics like a true professional.

This video closes with a powerful tribute to the great Memphis Belle B-17 in the form of some authentic 1943-footage of B-17s taking off on a mission to Bremen and a photograph of the Memphis Belle crew after their record-making 25th mission over German territory. Sally B played the role with pride, but the original Memphis Belle aircraft is now also under restoration, scheduled for completion in 2018. What a sight it would be, to see these two B-17s fly together!


Audrey Gerrard

Audrey Gerrard is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE