B-17 Commercial Transports

Last revised July 28, 1999

There were a few B-17s that were converted for use as commercial transports during the immediate postwar years. The B-17 was not well-suited as a commercial transport, and none of these transport conversions were very successful.

Following the end of the war, a surplus B-17G-105-VE serial number 44-85728 was purchased by Trans World Airlines for conversion as an executive transport. Following TWA's purchase of the surplus B-17G, it was ferried to Boeing's Seattle plant for the conversion work. All of the military equipment was removed and the fuselage was fitted with additional seating, and additional windows were cut into the sides of the fuselage. Since Boeing had by now used up all the letters of the alphabet for sub-variants of the Model 299 series, the company had to start through the alphabet all over again in designating later versions, and the conversion was assigned the company designation of Model 299AB.

The first civil registration assigned to the Model 299AB was NX-4600, but this was soon changed to NL-1B, the L being a new symbol introduced in the immediate postwar years to designate former military aircraft that had been converted to commercial uses. These sorts of conversions were given a limited type certificate of LTC-1, since they could not qualify for the standard licenses that purely commercial types were given. One restriction of the LTC-1 type certificate was that these conversions were not allowed to fly paying passengers.

TWA used the Model 299AB for survey and liaison work in setting up its routes in the Middle East. So far as I am aware, it never flew paying passengers. At the end of 1947, the machine was given to the Shah of Iran, and the Iranian registration was EP-HIM, where the HIM stood for "His Imperial Majesty". The Shah's B-17 was scrapped for spares at Creil, France in 1970.

Bolivia used a total of 26 B-17s in their civil aviation fleet by several different operators. Most of them were acquired from the civilian market, but eight B-17s were transferred to Bolivia directly from USAF surplus stocks in 1956. These planes were assigned Bolivian civil registrations between CP-620 and CP-627. Hamilton Aircraft of Tucson was contracted to prepare the aircraft for delivery to the Bolivian government. An additional seven B-17 airframes were supplied to Hamilton Aircraft for scavenging for spare parts to keep the remainder flying.

Here is a list of Bolivian B-17 transports.

USAF serial    Bolivian serial	Disposition

41-9210		CP-753		ex N9720F.  Returned to US as N8WJ for
41-24434	CB-79-->CP-579  ex N60475.  Destroyed Dec 1958.
42-3360		CB-70-->CP-570	ex N67974.  Destroyed Sept 1955.	
42-3470		CP-633		ex Nicaraguan AN-AMI.  Sold to Colombia
				as HK-580.  Ultimate fate unknown.
42-6073		CP-686		ex-N7942A.  Destroyed Nov 1968.
42-30921	CB-71-->CP-571	Destroyed Jan 1962.
43-37650	CB-97-->CP-597  ex-N66570 - Destroyed Sept 1955.
43-38322	CB-80-->CP-580-->CP936  Destroyed Feb 1972.
43-39307	CP-625		Transferred to Bolivia from USAF in 1956.
				Destroyed Nov 1957.
44-6332		CB-88-->CP-588 	Destroyed May 1963.
44-6393		CP-627-->CP-891 Returned to USA in 1981 for display
44-6556		CP-624		Transferred to Bolivia from USAF in 1956.
				Destroyed Feb 1963.
44-83750	CP-623		Transferred to Bolivia from USAF in 1956.
				Destroyed 1958.
44-83809	CP-626		Transferred to Bolivia from USAF in 1956.
				Destroyed 1959.
44-83858	CP-742		ex-N5226V.  Destroyed Feb 1965.
44-83859	CP-767		ex-Peruvian OB-R-623.  Destroyed April 1967.
44-83861	CP-741		ex-N5227V.  Destroyed Oct 1965.
44-83875	CP-640   	ex-N5231V.  Destroyed August 1967.
44-85774	CP-621		Transferred to Bolivia from USAF in 1956.
				Returned to USA in 1968.  Destroyed 1973.
44-85806	CP-762		ex-N117W.  Scrapped Dec 1964.
44-85817	CP-622		Transferred to Bolivia from USAF in 1956.
				Destroyed Feb 1957.
44-85824	CP-694		Ex-N9347R.  Destroyed Dec 1963.
44-85840	CP-620		Transferred to Bolivia from USAF in 1956.
				Returned to USA in 1968 as N620L.  Destroyed 
				July 1973.

There was one place where the B-17 did fly paying passengers--Sweden. During the war, sixty-eight B-17s flying over Germany had been forced to divert to Sweden when their crews found that they were unable to return to England. Since Sweden was neutral, these planes had to be interned and their crews sent to camps. A program was worked out in late 1944, in which the crews and other interned Americans were allowed to return to England. In exchange, the US government agreed to let Sweden "purchase" nine of the interned Fortresses for $1.00.

Swedish authorities converted seven of these planes into commercial transports for the SAAB airline, stripping them of their military equipment and installing airline-type seating. The nose windows were removed and the length of the nose was increased in order to make room for more passengers. These B-17 airliners were operated for several postwar years before being replaced by more conventional airliners.

The following is a list of interned B-17s converted as commercial transports in Sweden:

Swedish registrations 	Designation 		Ex-USAAF Serials 

SE-BAH 			B-17F-75-DL 		42-3543 
SE-BAK 			B-17F-115-BO 		42-30661 
SE-BAM 			B-17G-5-BO 		42-31163 
SE-BAN 			B-17F-70-DL 		42-3490 
SE-BAO 			B-17G-40-BO 		42-97115 
SE-BAP 			B-17G-35-BO 		42-32076 
SE-BAR 			B-17G-35-DL 		42-107067 

SE-BAR and SE-BAP were sold to the Danish air line DDL in late 1945 as OY-DFE and OY-DFA respectively. In 1948, OY-DFA was sold to the Danish Army Air Corps under the serial number 67-672. In 1949, it was transferred to the Royal Danish Navy, and in 1952 it was transferred to the Royal Danish Air Force. It operated with the RDAF under the serial number ESK-721 and was used for transport, mapping, and communication. It was placed in storage in late 1953. In 1955, the Danish Air force finally sold the aircraft to the French Institut Geographique National (IGN), which added the plane to its fleet of B-17s that flew world-wide photographic and geophysical survey missions. Its French civil registration number was F-BGSP. It eventually ended up derelict, sitting out in the open as it was slowly scavenged for spare parts. In 1972, the USAF Museum purchased it and returned it to the US. It was restored in its original markings (with the nose art "Shoo Shoo Shoo Baby") and put on display at the Wright-Patterson AFB museum at Dayton, Ohio. I saw it there in 1992.


  1. Boeing Aircraft Since 1916, Peter M. Bowers, Naval Institute Press, 1989.

  2. Final Cut--The Post-War B-17 Flying Fortress: The Survivors. Scott A. Thompson, Pictorial Histories Publishing Co. <\ol>