Yankee Lady is a B-17G–110–VE, bearing USAAF serial number 44-85829. The airplane was built by the Vega Division of Lockheed Aircraft Corporation at Burbank, California and was delivered to the USAAF on July 16, 1945. It went to Dallas, Texas for modifications and in September 1945 was placed in storage at South Plains Field, Texas along with other brand new B-17s. The YAM is certain that this aircraft did not fly combat missions during World War II.
In 1946 the aircraft was one of 16 “Flying Fortresses” that were transferred to the U.S. Coast Guard. These aircraft were re-designated PB-1Gs, “P” signifying patrol, “B” denoting designed by Boeing, “1” for the first model of the type and “G” for Coast Guard. This particular aircraft then became PB-1G serial number 77255. All of the guns and turrets were removed, and a radar dome was installed in the position formerly occupied by the chin turret. It was used for air-sea rescue and iceberg patrol duties out of Argentina, Newfoundland, Elizabeth North Carolina and San Francisco, California. At one time it carried an air droppable, 27 foot long 3300 pound wooden lifeboat under the fuselage for rescuing people stranded at sea. This aircraft was retired from the U.S. Coast Guard in 1958.
On May 11, 1959, the airplane was sold to Ace Smelting, Inc. for $5997.93. It was assigned the civil registration N3193G. In November 1959 Fairchild Aerial Survey Company purchased the aircraft and used it for aerial survey work. In 1966 the plane was sold to Aircraft Specialties, Inc. of Mesa, Arizona. This company used numerous B-17s as air tankers to fight forest fires and apply pesticides on crops and trees. During 1969 the aircraft was one of five B-17s flown to Hawaii and used in the filming of the 1970 film Tora! Tora! Tora!
In 1985 the airplane was among four other B-17s that were put up for sale at an auction held by Globe Air, the successor company to Aircraft Specialties. The airplane remained unsold until the Yankee Air Force purchased it for $250,000 in June 1986. After several test hops, the aircraft was flown from Mesa, Arizona to Willow Run Airport, Ypsilanti, Michigan on July 2, 1986. It was not to fly again for nine years.
Photo by Bryan Redecker