One frame of reference for comparing time to construct large projects

With about 40,000 hours of labor, you could build this in around 900 A.D. ….

Image of Viking longboat courtesy of Adobe Stock.

..or with about 55,000 hours of labor, you could build this in 1942 A.D. …

B-17 at March Air Base Museum; photo by James Ulvog.


I’ve noticed a few guesses of the time it took to build things during the Viking Age. Here are a few points of reference:

Construction time of one longhouse and perimeter of winter camp in Viking Era

  • 24,192 hours – Long house 93’ long x 24’ wide x 25’ tall
  • 50,000 hours – 19’ tall wall around winter camp with moat 13’ deep x 13’ wide

How much labor did it take to construct a Viking longship?

  • 40,000 hours, surplus production of 100 persons for a year – Longship 98’ long (30 meters)
  • 28,000 hours, estimate of time for Vikings to build a 30 meter longship based on time for modern workers to recreate a longship using Viking techniques

In The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won, Victor Davis Hanson provides extensive data about the economic output of various countries. In terms of hours to build a war machine, one tidbit is relevant here.

Picture a B-17 bomber from World War II. It was a workhorse heavy bomber used to devastate Nazi Germany. See photo above.  Picture the move Twelve O’Clock High.

Prof. Hanson says in 1942 it took 54,800 hours of labor to construct one plane. By 1944, efficiency gains reduced the construction labor to 18,600 hours for each B-17.

So for comparison, making the assumption all the above numbers are somewhat close to accurate, with something roughy comparable to the amount of labor time it took to build a B-17 in 1942, the Vikings could have built that winter wall or a 98’ long warship. With 1944 efficiency, the workers in 1944 could have built something like two longships in the Viking Age.

That assumes away with the wave of my hand the massive capital costs to build an airplane construction line and more massive technology knowledge and the far more massive management knowledge needed to even build a B-17.

For me, that provides a reeeeeeally rough comparison of the time cost of building state of the art war machines across time.

Modify my comparisons as you wish. I’ve listed the raw data so you can revise as you desire.



Just gotta throw in a couple more pix…

B-17 at March Air Base Museum; photo by James Ulvog.


B-17 at March Air Base Museum; photo by James Ulvog.

If you liked those still photos of B-17s, here is a video I filmed and produced of some flying at the 2014 Planes of Fame airshow in Chino, California:

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