A Pilot Built a 1:3 Scale B-17 Bomber Replica That Actually Flies

And it took 40,000 hours and 17 years to build.
Chris Young

Aviation enthusiast and Vietnam veteran Jack Bally decided in 1999 that he wanted to build a 1:3 scale replica of the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress bomber, Jalopnik report explains. The massive project took 17 years to complete, but any aviation enthusiast would argue that the hard work was worth it when they see footage of the incredibly like-for-like aircraft take flight.

The aircraft, which is nicknamed the Bally Bomber, has a 35-foot (10.6-meter) wingspan, and though it is incredibly loyal to the design of the original B-17, the cockpit was built larger than the rest of the aircraft's 1:3 scale as it needed to make space for a full-scale human pilot. 

With the help of aerospace engineer Don Smith, Bally adapted plans for a 1:9 scale B-17 R/C plane in order to make his larger flightworthy model. Impressively, the homebuilt plane is powered by not one, but four Hirth F-30 two-stroke four-cylinder air-cooled boxer engines. Each of these produces 60 HP each for a total output of 240 HP. The Bally Bomber performed its maiden flight in 2016 and made its first show appearance and flight in front of an audience at the Experimental Aircraft Association’s 2018 AirVenture airshow in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Have a look at footage of the Bally B-17 in flight below.

Massive flightworthy RC aircraft

The Bally B-17 will undoubtedly go down as one of the most impressive replica planes ever built. Other contenders for that unofficial award go to an incredible 1/13 scale Airbus A380 that we reported on back in March. A 1:6 scale replica of the Concorde, built by Steven and Matthew Bishop, is also worth a mention. That model also featured four engines — in this case, they were JetCat P300 Pro engines. Much in the same fashion as the Bally B-17, both of those models were able to take flight.

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Sadly, Jack Bally passed away last summer at the age of 79, only a few short years after having completed the B-17 replica. He leaves behind his masterwork, the Bally Bomber, as well as a number of other replica aircraft made throughout the years, including a parasol monoplane and a bush plane. This year, the Bally Bomber, made an appearance at the AirVenture show, where it was flown by its new owner.

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