Author Topic: 1/144 Boeing YIB-17 from the Minicraft B-17G  (Read 2228 times)

Offline Brian da Basher

  • He has an unnatural attraction to Spats...and a growing fascination with airships!
  • Global Moderator
  • Hulk smash, Brian bash
1/144 Boeing YIB-17 from the Minicraft B-17G
« on: November 22, 2015, 10:57:14 AM »
The Boeing B-17 is perhaps one of the most recognizable aircraft of the 1940s.

Even earlier versions had that pugnacious look the bomber was famous for.

Though utterly forgotten today, a much sleeker version once took flight.

It all began when the U.S. Army Air Corps approached Boeing to use the prototype Curtiss Conqueror 14 V-1705 inline engine to power one of the new Flying Fortresses then starting to come off the production line.

Boeing was nonplussed using a competitor's engine but agreed to play ball and it's rumored the project was turned over to the clandestine Boeing Otter Works, a facility so top secret it remains under wraps to this day.

After a bit of fudging, fussing and outright cussing, the Curtiss Conqueror 14 V-1705s were eventually mated to a modified B-17 and the YIB (I for Inline) -17 was born.

The YIB-17 was envisaged as a long-range, high-altitude recon and patrol aircraft, given the anticipated, off-the-charts capabilities of the new prototype Curtiss Conqueror 14 V-1705s.

What wasn't envisaged was the unique aerodynamics caused by the larger inline engines. This would necessitate some small, but important design changes in the famous B-17.

The longer engine nacelles caused increased yaw and directional instability that was only corrected by adding a dorsal spine and a re-designed rudder.

The new dorsal spine would be one of the YIB-17's few claims to fame as this led to yet a larger dorsal spine (as well as fin & rudder) on the newer, still radial-powered, B-17E. This larger tail area would also provide the room for the tail gunner which would become one of the key features of this iconic aircraft.

However, in 1939 that was all far in the future. In November of the following year, the YIB-17 was said to have been rolled out of the Otter Works. All that is definitively known is that the aircraft made a brief flight around Mt. Rainier and then landed at Boeing Field. This was accidentally captured in a photo taken by the famous health advocate and outdoorsman, Mr Natural.

Th YIB-17 would be photographed only sporadically after that and very little documentary evidence of the aircraft survives. When briefly seen, the public typically confused it with its more ubiquitous brother, the B-17D.

The aircraft proved to be a superb recon platform and was instrumental in uncovering the unwanted incursion of a Canadian-Pacific Railroad survey team into the remote border region of northern Montana in 1941.

Unfortunately, the Curtiss Conqueror 14 V-1705 engines proved too temperamental for the aircraft to be put into production. It would spend World War II stateside performing long-range patrols and high-priority transport duties.

The YIB-17's other claim to fame was a brief appearance in the blockbuster 1946 film about returning G.I.s The Best Years of Our Lives.

Some of you may remember this film for a scene near the end inside the nose of a war-weary B-17 awaiting scrapping.

The YIB-17's time in the spotlight was brief, as in blink-and-you-miss-it brief.

Still, for a time it was an incredibly valuable research/recon platform that would lead to improved future Flying Fortresses. All that exists of the YIB-17 today is this tarted-up design model that was sold on e-bay for 49 cents (plus $7.50 shipping) after Boeing closed their Federal Way cost-accounting center which was rumored to be near the apocryphal Otter Works.

Brian da Basher
« Last Edit: November 22, 2015, 11:20:14 AM by Brian da Basher »

Offline Jeffry Fontaine

  • Unaffiliated Independent Subversive...and the last person to go for a trip on a Mexicana dH Comet 4
  • Global Moderator
  • His stash is able to be seen from space...
Re: 1/144 Boeing YIB-17 from the Minicraft B-17G
« Reply #1 on: November 22, 2015, 11:37:24 AM »
Great back story Brian and a lovely little model you have created from that tiny little kit.
"Every day we hear about new studies 'revealing' what should have been obvious to sentient beings for generations; 'Research shows wolverines don't like to be teased" -- Jonah Goldberg


  • 'bin building for years ....... and it feels it!
  • Always thought of himself as a 'straight' modeller
Re: 1/144 Boeing YIB-17 from the Minicraft B-17G
« Reply #2 on: November 22, 2015, 12:25:12 PM »
Lovely build mate  :) :)
"Resistance is useless, prepare to be assembled!"

Offline Brian da Basher

  • He has an unnatural attraction to Spats...and a growing fascination with airships!
  • Global Moderator
  • Hulk smash, Brian bash
Re: 1/144 Boeing YIB-17 from the Minicraft B-17G
« Reply #3 on: November 22, 2015, 12:26:06 PM »
This all started with the venerable Minicraft B-17G. The example in question being the "Flak Eater" boxing.

By any modern standard even the improved (better clear cockpit part & decals) version I had was still a bit basic. Here's the only sprue shot of it I could find. I must be one of three or four guys that have actually built this kit.

Here's a shot of a build done by someone far more skilled which shows off that chin turret well nicely.

(found on Google, will gladly give credit where due if I knew...)

Still, huge holes have never dissuaded me. I've had the misfortune to have to work with more than a few...

I've got a huge soft-spot for the Flying Fortress. I mean, what's not to love? Great streamlined shape, a prize-fighter's rake to the windscreen, all those guns, Twelve O'Clock High...

Well like some guys surf for pictures of pretty ladies, I surf for B-17s. Early, late, OD, NMF, no matter, it's all a great look if it's on a Flying Fortress as far as I'm concerned.

A while back, I came across a build of a 1/72 B-17C. In the comments, someone said they'd love to see an early B-17 converted to inline engines like the later Allison-powered XB-38.

A reply post said they'd seen this done, but in 1/144 scale. I wasn't able to find out any more about that 1/144 inline B-17C but I did some thinking. It hit me that this could be a relatively simple conversion using the Merlins from a 1/144 Avro Lancaster. Out came the razor saw to free the Merlins from their Lancaster prison and chop off the huge B-17 kit fin & rudder. I now have three of these B-17 parts which will make one awesome set of tail feathers.

The key to pulling this off is to cut the Merlins at just the right place so they fit on the stubs on the B-17 wings. I almost made it...

I also had to sand back the cylinder banks so they were flush with the B-17 engine stubs. I didn't do this until after the entire model was built and I wish I'd caught and dealt with it sooner. Luckily that steel colored paint seems to help in some surreal way...

I went with a dorsal spine cut from sprue to fill the gap left by cutting off the tail, not trusting my skills enough to simply putty over it as I was going with a metal finish. A new fin & rudder was made from the horiz. stab. off of a 1/48 Piper Cub. An actual blister from a pack of cold pills was used for the ventral observation blister.

The model is brush-painted by hand in acrylics, Model Masters Aluminum (or "aluminium" to some) mostly. The black leading-edge de-icer boots were done somewhat free-hand, using a Post-It note as a guide since my usually trusty Tamiya tape pulled up the aluminum (or "aluminium") paint in chunks.

Decals are a mix from spares. An RAF fin flash was cut to shape as the waist windows. Adding a MATS badge over some pale blue stripes provided the mysterious recon unit insignia. The re-designed rudder is because my talent for painting those 13 tail stripes failed me so I stripped it all back and used the decal from a 1/72 Curtiss P-6 E as a template which would no doubt only further nonplus the good folks at Boeing.

When I started this project, I had grand visions for that Natural Metal Finish. I don't do NMF very often as it tends to really highlight any flaws in the build. Also, metallic paints are notoriously bad for opacity, so it takes multiple coats. Still, I was full of high-mindedness and thought I might even paint different colored metal panels, just like on the "real" airplane!

Well eventually my ambition became more manageable and I settled for just different colors for the engines and control surfaces. B-17 control surfaces were fabric-covered and while airplane dope and aircraft aluminum (or "aluminium") can appear similar, they're not really the same. So I made sure to give the ailerons and elevators a little extra attention with a custom shade of paint. The effect is subtle but I think worth the effort.

I had a lot of fun and a few challenges building the YIB-17 which I've been working on off-and-on over the past few weeks.

This last shot was taken with the flash off which makes a bit of difference. I hope you enjoyed the YIB-17 and reading a little more top-secret (Shhhhhh!!!) forgotten history.

Brian da Basher
« Last Edit: November 22, 2015, 12:56:05 PM by Brian da Basher »

Offline finsrin

  • The Dr Frankenstein of the modelling world...when not hiding from SBA
  • Finds part glues it on, finds part glues it on....
Re: 1/144 Boeing YIB-17 from the Minicraft B-17G
« Reply #4 on: November 22, 2015, 12:33:16 PM »
And yet again; combination of your extensive reference library and bash building skills brings us historical insight and one of a kind B-17 now captured superbly in styrene. :)
During my first year at Boeing I worked in wiring integration.  One of "old salts" in wiring told me how he was involved in measuring and building wire bundles for YIB-17.  Tedious work crawling, measuring, and recording in note book.  Then on to building the wire bundles.  Color codes, connector pin-outs, wire gages, bundle selves, grommets, was like he remembered it all.

Offline The Big Gimper

  • Any model will look better in RCAF, SEAC or FAA markings
  • Global Moderator
  • Cut. Cut. Cut. Measure. Cut. Cut. Crap. Toss.
    • Photobucket Modeling Album
Re: 1/144 Boeing YIB-17 from the Minicraft B-17G
« Reply #5 on: November 22, 2015, 08:56:00 PM »
Well Brian de B-17 Basher, with this build you now own top spot in B-17 bashing.

Work in progress ::

I am giving up listing them. They all end up on the shelf of procrastination anyways.

User and abuser of Bothans...

Offline Frank3k

  • Excession
  • Formerly Frank2056. New upgrade!
    • My webpage
Re: 1/144 Boeing YIB-17 from the Minicraft B-17G
« Reply #6 on: November 23, 2015, 01:09:31 AM »
This is beeeutiful! Really great idea to put in lines on an early B-17. Good trip down memory lane, too. I watched "12 O'Clock High" when I was a kid and really wanted the Aurora kit of a B-17 formation from that show.
"Best Years of our Lives" is a great movie, too. A bit melodramatic, but apparently accurate WRT the immediate post-war years.

Offline GTX_Admin

  • Evil Administrator bent on taking over the Universe!
  • Administrator - Yep, I'm the one to blame for this place.
  • Whiffing Demi-God!
    • Beyond the Sprues
Re: 1/144 Boeing YIB-17 from the Minicraft B-17G
« Reply #7 on: November 23, 2015, 03:38:30 AM »
All hail the God of Frustration!!!

Offline elmayerle

  • Its about time there was an Avatar shown here...
  • Über least that is what he tells us.
Re: 1/144 Boeing YIB-17 from the Minicraft B-17G
« Reply #8 on: November 23, 2015, 06:49:22 AM »
Beautiful model with inspired backstory.  I loved the "Twelve O'clock High" TV show and now have both the movie and novel it was derived from (great book if you can find it).