The first aircraft manufactured by Saab, the B17, was created following the acquisition of the aircraft division of the Swedish Railroad Workshops company. In 1938, this organisation, also known as ASJA, had received the order from the Swedish Defence Material Administration to manufacture a single-engined light fighter-bomber. The project was taken over by Saab in early 1939 and evolved into a single-engined light bomber designated Saab B17. The aircraft heralded a number of innovations.
The maiden flight of Saab’s first aircraft on 18 May 1940 was somewhat perilous. The cockpit wheel, which was not fully developed, came loose and fell off prior to landing. Apart from that, test pilot Claes Smith was pleased with the first flight.
The landing gear of the Saab B17 was retractable and was covered with streamlined fairings, which in its open position could also be used as dive brakes. The wheel could be replaced with a ski and there was a special float that could be permanently attached.
In December 1940, a first order was agreed for 8 aircrafts. Altogether, 324 Saab B17 aircrafts were produced in three versions with different engines, B 17A, B 17B and B 17C. The Saab B17 was decommissioned as a combat aircraft in 1948. Civil registered aircrafts were subsequently used as a target towing aircraft in Finland and Austria among others. Starting in 1947, 46 B 17A aircrafts were delivered to the Ethiopian Air Force, with some remaining in service up to 1968.
There is still one aircraft in operation. Saab 17A no. 17239 (Blå Johan) was restored to an airworthy state prior to Saab's 60th anniversary in 1997 and is currently used at various air shows in Sweden and abroad.
Data and performance of the Saab B17
Engine: SFA STWC-3, 1,065 hp
Max. take-off weight: 3,790 kg
Max. speed: 440 km/h
Max. altitude: 8,700 m