B-17 Crew Requirements and Standard Operating Procedures
Take-off and Assembly
41st CBW Assembly
Duties and Responsibilities of
THE AIRPLANE COMMANDER
From the B-17 Pilot Training Manual -1943
Your assignment to the B-17 airplane means that you are no longer just a pilot. You are now an airplane commander, charged with all the duties and responsibilities of a command post.
You are now flying a 10-man weapon. It is your airplane, and your crew. You are responsible for the safety and efficiency of the crew at all times--not just when you are flying and fighting, but for the full 24 hours of every day while you are in command.
Your crew is made up of specialists. Each man -- whether he is the navigator, bombardier, engineer, radio operator, or one of the gunners -- is an expert in his line. But how well he does his job, and how efficiently he plays his part as a member of your combat team, will depend to a great extent on how well you play your own part as the airplane commander.
Get to know each member of your crew as an individual. Know his personal idiosyncrasies,
his capabilities, his shortcomings. Take a personal interest in his problems, his ambitions, his need for specific training.
See that your men are properly quartered, clothed, and fed. There will be many times, when your airplane and crew are away from the home base, when you may even have to carry your interest to the extent of financing them yourself. Remember always that you are the commanding officer of a miniature army -- a specialized army; and that morale is one of the biggest problems for the commander of any army, large or small.
Your success as the airplane commander will depend in a large measure on the respect, confidence, and trust which the crew feels for you. It will depend also on how well you maintain crew discipline.
Your position commands obedience and respect. This does not mean that you have to be
stiff-necked, overbearing, or aloof. Such characteristics most certainly will defeat your purpose.
Be friendly, understanding, but firm. Know your job; and, by the way you perform your
duties daily, impress upon the crew that you do know your job. Keep close to your men, and
let them realize that their interests are uppermost in your mind. Make fair decisions, after
due consideration of all the facts involved; but make them in such a way as to impress upon
your crew that your decisions are to stick. Crew discipline is vitally important, but it
need not be as difficult a problem as it sounds. Good discipline in an air crew breeds comradeship
and high morale, and the combination is unbeatable.
You can be a good CO, and still be a regular guy. You can command respect from your men, and still be one of them.
"To associate discipline with informality, comradeship, a leveling of rank, and at times a
shift in actual command away from the leader, may seem paradoxical," says a brigadier general, formerly a Group commander in the VIII Bomber Command. "Certainly, it isn't down the military groove. But it is discipline just the same -- and the kind of discipline that brings success in the air."
Train your crew as a team. Keep abreast of their training. It won't be possible for you to
follow each man's courses of instruction, but you can keep a close check on his record and progress.
Get to know each man's duties and problems. Know his job, and try to devise ways and means of helping him to perform it more efficiently.
Each crew member naturally feels great pride in the importance of his particular specialty. You can help him to develop his pride to include the manner in which he performs that duty. To do that you must possess and maintain a thorough knowledge of each man's job and the problems he has to deal with in the performance of his duties.
Duties and Responsibilities of
The copilot is the executive officer -- your chief assistant, understudy, and strong right arm. He must be familiar enough with every one of your duties -- both as pilot and as airplane commander -- to be able to take over and act in your place at any time.
- He must he able to fly the airplane under all conditions as well as you would fly it yourself.
- He must he extremely proficient in engine operation, and know instinctively what to do to keep the airplane flying smoothly even though he is not handling the controls.
- He must have a thorough knowledge of cruising control data, and know how to apply it at the proper time.
- He is also the engineering officer aboard the airplane, and maintains a complete log of performance data.
- He must be a qualified instrument pilot.
- He must he able to fly good formation in any assigned position, day or night.
- He must he qualified to navigate by day or at night by pilotage, dead reckoning, and by use of radio aids.
- He must be proficient in the operation of all radio equipment located in the pilot's compartment.
- In formation flying, he must be able to make engine adjustments almost automatically.
- He must be prepared to take over on instruments when the formation is climbing through
an overcast, thus enabling you to watch the rest of the formation.
Always remember that the copilot is a fully trained, rated pilot just like yourself. He is subordinate to you only by virtue of your position as the airplane commander. The B-17 is a lot of airplane; more airplane than any one pilot can handle alone over a long period of time. Therefore, you have been provided with a second pilot who will share the duties of flight operation.
Treat your copilot as a brother pilot. Remember that the more proficient he is as a pilot, the more efficiently he will be able to perform the duties of the vital post he holds as your second in command.
Be sure that he is allowed to do his share of the flying, in the pilot's seat, on takeoffs, landings, and on instruments.
The importance of the copilot is eloquently testified to by airplane commanders overseas. There have been many cases in which the pilot has been disabled or killed in flight and the copilot has taken full command of both airplane and crew, completed the mission, and returned safely to the home base. Usually, the copilots who have distinguished themselves under such conditions have been copilots who have been respected and trained by the airplane commander as pilots.
Bear in mind that the pilot in the right-hand seat of your airplane is preparing himself
for an airplane commander's post too. Allow him every chance to develop his ability and to
profit by your experience.
Duties and Responsibilities of
The navigator's job is to direct your flight from departure to destination and return. He must know the exact position of the airplane at all times.
Navigation is the art of determining geographic positions by means of (a) pilotage, (b) dead reckoning, (c) radio, or (d) celestial navigation, or any combination of these 4 methods. By any one or combination of methods the navigator determines the position of the airplane in relation to the earth.
Pilotage is the method of determining the airplane's position by visual reference to the ground. The importance of accurate pilotage cannot over-emphasized. In combat navigation, all bombing targets are approached by pilotage, and in many theaters the route is maintained by pilotage. This requires not merely the vicinity type, but pin-point pilotage. The exact position of the airplane must be known not within 5 miles but within ¼ of a mile.
The navigator does this by constant reference to groundspeeds and ETA's established for points ahead, the ground, and to his maps and charts. During the mission, so long as he can maintain visual contact with the ground, the navigator can establish these pin-point positions so that the exact track of the airplane will be known when the mission is completed.
Dead reckoning is the basis of all other types of navigation. For instance, if the navigator is doing pilotage and computes ETA's for points ahead, he is using dead reckoning.
Dead reckoning determines the position of the airplane at any given time by keeping an account of the track and distance flown over the earth's surface from the point of departure or last known position.
Dead reckoning can be subdivided into two classes:
- Dead reckoning as a result of a series of known positions obtained by some other means of navigation.
For example, you, as pilot, start on a mission from London to Berlin at 25,000 feet. For the first hour your navigator keeps track by pilotage; at the same time recording the heading and airspeed which you are holding. According to plan, at the end of the first hour the airplane goes above the clouds, thus losing contact with the ground. By means of dead reckoning from his last pilotage point, the navigator is able to tell the position of the aircraft at any time. The first hour's travel has given him the wind prevalent at altitude, and the track and groundspeed being made. By computing track and distance from the last pilotage point, he can always tell the position of the airplane. When your airplane comes out of the clouds near Berlin, the navigator will have a very close approximation of his exact position, and will be able to pick up pilotage points quickly.
- Dead reckoning as a result of visual references other than pilotage.
When flying over water, desert, or barren land, where no reliable pilotage points are available, accurate DR navigation still can be performed. By means of the drift meter the navigator is able to determine drift, the angle between the heading of the airplane and its track over the ground. The true heading of the airplane is obtained by application of compass error to the compass reading. The true heading plus or minus the drift (as read on the drift meter) gives the track of the airplane. At a constant airspeed, drift on 2 or more headings will give the navigator information necessary to obtain the wind by use of his computer. Groundspeed is computed easily once the wind, heading, and airspeed are known. So, by constant recording of true heading, true airspeed, drift, and groundspeed, the navigator is able to determine accurately the position of the airplane at any given time. For greatest accuracy, the pilot must maintain constant courses and airspeeds. If course or airspeed is changed, notify the navigator so he can record these changes.
Radio navigation makes use of various radio aids to determine position. The development of many new radio devices has increased the use of radio in combat zones. However, the ease with which radio aids can be jammed, or bent, limits the use of radio to that of a check on DR and pilotage. The navigator, in conjunction with the radio man, is responsible for all radio procedures, approaches, etc., that are in effect in the theater.
Celestial navigation is the science of determining position by reference to 2 or more celestial bodies. The navigator uses a sextant, accurate time, and many tables to obtain what he calls a line of position. Actually this line is part of a circle on which the altitude of the particular body is constant for that instant of time. An intersection of 2 or more of these lines gives the navigator a fix. These fixes can be relied on as being accurate within approximately 10 miles. One reason for inaccuracy is the instability of the airplane as it moves through space, causing acceleration of the sextant bubble (a level denoting the horizontal). Because of this acceleration, the navigator takes observations over a period of time so that the acceleration error will cancel out to some extent. If the navigator tells the pilot when he wishes to take an observation, extremely careful flying on the part of the pilot during the few minutes it takes to make the observation will result in much greater accuracy. Generally speaking, the only celestial navigation used by a combat crew is during the delivering flight to the theater. But in all cases celestial navigation is used as a check on dead reckoning and pilotage except where celestial is the only method available, such as on long over-water flights, etc.
Instrument calibration is an important duty of the navigator. All navigation depends directly on the accuracy of his instruments. Correct calibration requires close cooperation and extremely careful flying by the pilot. Instruments to be calibrated include the altimeter, all compasses, airspeed indicators, alignment of the astrocompass, astrograph, and drift meter, and check on the navigator's sextant and watch.
Pilot-Navigator Preflight Planning
- Pilot and navigator must study flight plan of the route to be flown and select alternate air fields.
- Study the weather with the navigator. Know what weather you are likely to encounter. Decide what action is to be taken. Know the weather conditions at the alternate airfields.
- Inform your navigator at what airspeed and altitude you wish to fly so that he can prepare his flight plan.
- Learn what type of navigation the navigator intends to use: pilotage, dead reckoning, radio, celestial, or a combination of all methods.
- Determine check points; plan to make radio fixes.
- Work out an effective communication method with your navigator to be used in flight.
- Synchronize your watch with your navigator's.
Pilot-Navigator in Flight
- Constant course - For accurate navigation, the pilot -- you -- must fly a constant course. The navigator has many computations and entries to make in his log. Constantly changing course makes his job more difficult. A good navigator is supposed to be able to follow the pilot, but he cannot be taking compass readings all the time.
- Constant airspeed must be held as nearly as possible. This is as important to the navigator as is a constant course in determining position.
- Precision flying by the pilot greatly affects the accuracy of the navigator's instrument readings, particularly celestial readings. A slight error in celestial reading can cause considerable error in determining positions. You can help the navigator by providing as steady a platform as possible from which he can take readings. The navigator should notify you when he intends to take readings so that the airplane can be leveled off and flown as smoothly as possible, preferably by using the automatic pilot.
Do not allow your navigator to be disturbed while he is taking celestial readings.
- Notify the navigator of any change in flight, such as change in altitude, course, or airspeed. If change in flight plan is to be made, consult the navigator. Talk over the proposed change so that he can plan the flight and advise you about it.
- If there is doubt about the position of the airplane, pilot and navigator should get together, refer to the navigator's flight log, talk the problem over and decide together the best course of action to take.
- Check your compasses at intervals with those of the navigator, noting any deviation.
- Require your navigator to give position reports at intervals.
- You are ultimately responsible for getting the airplane to its destination. Therefore, it is your duty to know your position at all times.
- Encourage your navigator to use as many navigation methods as possible as a means of double-checking.
After every flight get together with the navigator and discuss the flight and compare notes. Go over the navigator's log. If there have been serious navigational errors, discuss them with the navigator and determine their cause. If the navigator has been at fault, caution him that it is his job to see that the same mistake does not occur again. If the error has been caused by faulty instruments, see that they are corrected before another navigation mission is attempted. If your flying has contributed to inaccuracy in navigation, try to fly a better course next time.
The navigator's primary duty is navigating your airplane with a high degree of accuracy. But as a member of the team, he must also have a general knowledge of the entire operation of the airplane.
He has a .50-cal. machine gun at his station, and he must be able to use it skillfully and to service it in emergencies.
He must be familiar with the oxygen system, know how to operate the turrets, radio equipment, and fuel transfer system.
He must know the location of all fuses and spare fuses, lights and spare lights, affecting navigation.
He must be familiar with emergency procedures, such as the manual operation of landing gear, bomb bay doors, and flaps, and the proper procedures for crash landings, ditching, bailout, etc.
Duties and Responsibilities of
Accurate and effective bombing is the ultimate purpose of your entire airplane and crew. Every other function is preparatory to hitting and destroying the target.
That's your bombardier's job. The success or failure of the mission depends upon what he accomplishes in that short interval of the bombing run.
When the bombardier takes over the airplane for the run on the target, he is in absolute command. He will tell you what he wants done, and until he tells you "Bombs away," his word is law.
A great deal, therefore, depends on the understanding between bombardier and pilot. You expect your bombardier to know his job when he takes over. He expects you to understand the problems involved in his job, and to give him full cooperation. Teamwork between pilot and bombardier is essential.
Under any given set of conditions -- groundspeed, altitude, direction, etc. -- there is only one point in space where a bomb may be released from the airplane to hit a predetermined object on the ground.
There are many things with which a bombardier must be thoroughly familiar in order to release his bombs at the right point to hit this predetermined target.
- He must know and understand his bombsight, what it does, and how it does it.
- He must thoroughly understand the operation and upkeep of his bombing instruments and equipment.
- He must know that his racks, switches, controls, releases, doors, linkage, etc., are in first class operating condition.
- He must understand the automatic pilot as it pertains to bombing.
- He must know how to set it up, make any adjustments and minor repairs while in flight.
- He must know how to operate all gun positions in the airplane.
- He must know how to load and clear simple stoppages and jams of machine guns while in flight.
- He must be able to load and fuse his own bombs.
- He must understand the destructive power of bombs and must know the vulnerable spots on various types of targets.
- He must understand the bombing problem, bombing probabilities, bombing errors, etc.
- He must be thoroughly versed in target identification and in aircraft identification.
The bombardier should be familiar with the duties of all members of the crew and should be able to assist the navigator in case the navigator becomes incapacitated.
For the bombardier to be able to do his job, the pilot of the aircraft must place the aircraft in the proper position to arrive at a point on a circle about the target from which the bombs can be released to hit the target.
Consider the following conditions which affect the bomb dropped from an airplane:
- ALTITUDE: Controlled by the pilot. Determines the length of time the bomb is sustained in flight and affected by atmospheric conditions, thus affecting the range (forward travel of the bomb) and deflection (distance the bomb drifts in a crosswind with respect to airplane's ground track).
- TRUE AIRSPEED: Controlled by the pilot. The measure of the speed of the airplane through the air. It is this speed which is imparted to the bomb and which gives the bomb its initial forward velocity and, therefore, affects the trail of the bomb, or the distance the bomb lags behind the airplane at the instant of impact.
- BOMB BALLISTICS: Size, shape and density of the bomb, which determines its air resistance.
Bombardier uses bomb ballistics tables to account for type of bomb.
- TRAIL: Horizontal distance the bomb is behind the airplane at the instant of impact. This value, obtained from bombing tables, is set in the sight by the bombardier. Trail is affected by altitude, airspeed, bomb ballistics and air density, the first three factors being controlled by the pilot.
- ACTUAL TIME OF FALL: Length of time the bomb is sustained in air from instant of release to instant of impact. Affected by altitude, type of bomb and air density. Pilot controls altitude to obtain a definite actual time of fall.
- GROUNDSPEED: The speed of the airplane in relation to the earth's surface. Groundspeed affects the range of the bomb and varies with the airspeed, controlled by the pilot. Bombardier enters groundspeed in the bombsight through synchronization on the target. During this process the pilot must maintain the correct altitude and constant airspeed.
- DRIFT: Determined by the direction and velocity of the wind, which determines the distance the bomb will travel downwind from the airplane from the instant the bomb is released to its instant of impact. Drift is set on the bombsight by the bombardier during the process of synchronization and setting up course.
The above conditions indicate that the pilot plays an important part in determining the proper point of release of the bomb. Moreover, throughout the course of the run, as explained below, there are certain preliminaries and techniques which the pilot must understand to insure accuracy and minimum loss of time.
Prior to takeoff the pilot must ascertain that the airplane's flight instruments have been checked and found accurate. These are the altimeter, airspeed indicator, free air temperature gauge and all gyro instruments. These instruments must be used to determine accurately
the airplane's attitude.
The Pilot's Preliminaries
The autopilot and PDI should be checked for proper operation. It is very important that PDI and autopilot function perfectly in the air; otherwise it will be impossible for the bombardier to set up an accurate course on the bombing run. The pilot should thoroughly familiarize himself with the function of both the C-1 autopilot and PDI.
If the run is to be made on the autopilot, the pilot must carefully adjust the autopilot before reaching the target area. The autopilot must be adjusted under the same conditions that will exist on the bombing run over the target. For this reason the following factors should be taken into consideration and duplicated for initial adjustment.
- Speed, altitude and power settings at which run is to be made.
- Airplane trimmed at this speed to fly hands off with bomb bay doors opened.
The same condition will exist during the actual run, except that changes in load will occur before reaching the target area because of gas consumption. The pilot will continue making adjustments to correct for this by disengaging the autopilot elevator control and re-trimming the airplane, then re-engaging and adjusting the autopilot trim of the elevator.
Setting Up the Autopilot
One of the most important items in setting up the autopilot for bomb approach is to adjust the turn compensation knobs so that a turn made by the bombardier will be coordinated and at constant altitude. Failure to make this adjustment will involve difficulty and delay for the bombardier in establishing an accurate course during the run with the possibility that the bombardier may not be able to establish a proper course in time, the result being considerably large deflection errors in point of impact.
Uncoordinated turns by the autopilot on the run cause erratic lateral motion of the cross hair of the bombsight when sighting on target. The bombardier in setting up course must eliminate any lateral motion of the fore-and-aft hair in relation to the target before he has the proper course set up. Therefore, any erratic motion of the cross hair requires an additional correction by the bombardier. which would not be necessary if autopilot was adjusted to make coordinated turns.
USE OF THE PDI: The same is true if PDI is used on the bomb run. Again, coordinated
smooth turns by the pilot become an essential part of the bomb run. In addition to added course corrections necessitated by uncoordinated turns, skidding and slipping introduce small changes in airspeed affecting synchronization of the bombsight on the target. To help the pilot flying the run on PDI, the airplane should be trimmed to fly practically hands off.
Assume that you are approaching the target area with autopilot properly adjusted. Before reaching the initial point (beginning of bomb run) there is evasive action to be considered. Many different types of evasive tactics are employed, but from experience it has been recommended that the method of evasive action be left up to the bombardier, since the entire anti-aircraft pattern is fully visible to the bombardier in the nose.
EVASIVE ACTION: Changes in altitude necessary for evasive action can be coordinated with the bombardier's changes in direction at specific intervals. This procedure is helpful to the bombardier since he must select the initial point at which he will direct the airplane onto the briefed heading for the beginning of the bomb run.
Should the pilot be flying the evasive action on PDI (at the direction of the bombardier) he must know the exact position of the initial point for beginning the run, so that he can fly the airplane to that point and be on the briefed heading. Otherwise, there is a possibility of beginning to run too soon, which increases the airplane's vulnerability, or beginning the run too late, which will affect the accuracy of the bombing. For best results the approach should be planned so the airplane arrives at the initial point on the briefed heading, and at the assigned bombing altitude and airspeed.
At this point the bombardier and pilot as a team should exert an extra effort to solve the problem at hand. It is now the bombardier's responsibility to take over the direction of flight, and give directions to the pilot for the operations to follow. The pilot must be able to follow the bombardier's directions with accuracy and minimum loss of time, since the longest possible bomb run seldom exceeds 3 minutes. Wavering and indecision at this moment are disastrous to the success of any mission, and during the crucial portion of the run, flak and fighter opposition must be ignored if bombs are to hit the target. The pilot and
bombardier should keep each other informed of anything which may affect the successful
completion of the run.
HOLDING A LEVEL: Either before or during the run, the bombardier will ask the pilot for a level. This means that the pilot must accurately level his airplane with his instruments (ignoring the PDI). There should be no acceleration of the airplane in any direction, such as an increase or decrease in airspeed, skidding or slipping, gaining or losing altitude.
For the level the pilot should keep a close check on his instruments, not by feel or watching the horizon. Any acceleration of the airplane during this moment will affect the bubbles (through centrifugal force) on the bombsight gyro, and the bombardier will not be able to establish an accurate level.
For example, assume that an acceleration occurred during the moment the bombardier was accomplishing a level on the gyro. A small increase in airspeed or a small skid, hardly perceptible, is sufficient to shift the gyro bubble liquid 1 degree or more. An erroneous tilt of 1 degree on the gyro will cause an error of approximately 440 feet in the point of impact of a bomb dropped from 20,000 feet, the direction of error depending on direction of tilt of gyro caused by the erroneous bubble reading,
HOLDING ALTITUDE AND AIRSPEED: As the bombardier proceeds to set up his course
(synchronize) , it is absolutely essential that the pilot maintain the selected altitude and air-
speed within the closest possible limits. For every additional 100 feet above the assumed
20,000-foot bombing altitude, the bombing error will increase approximately 30 feet, the direction of error being over. For erroneous airspeed, which creates difficulty in synchronization on the target, the bombing error will be approximately 170 feet for a 10 mph change in airspeed. Assuming the airspeed was 10 mph in excess, from 20,000 feet, the bomb impact would be short 170 feet.
The pilot's responsibility to provide a level and to maintain a selected altitude and airspeed within the closest limits cannot be over-emphasized.
If the pilot is using PDI (at the direction of the bombardier) instead of autopilot, he must be thoroughly familiar with the corrections demanded by the bombardier. Too large a correction or too small a correction, too soon or too late, is as bad as no correction at all. Only through prodigious practice flying with the PDI can the pilot become proficient to a point where he can actually perform a coordinated turn, the amount and speed necessary to balance the bombardier's signal from the bombsight.
Erratic airspeeds, varying altitudes, and poorly coordinated turns make the job of establishing course and synchronizing doubly difficult for both pilot and bombardier, because of the necessary added corrections required. The resulting bomb impact will be far from satisfactory.
After releasing the bombs, the pilot or bombardier may continue evasive action -- usually the pilot, so that the bombardier may man his guns.
The pilot using the turn control may continue to fly the airplane on autopilot, or fly it manually, with the autopilot in a position to he engaged by merely flipping the lock switches. This would provide potential control of the airplane in case of emergency.
REDUCING CIRCULAR ERROR: One of the greatest assets towards reducing the circular error of a bombing squadron lies in the pilot's ability to adjust the autopilot properly, fly the PDI, and maintain the designated altitude and airspeeds during the bombing run. Reducing the circular error of a bombing squadron reduces the total number of aircraft required to destroy a particular target. For this reason both pilot and bombardier should work together until they have developed a complete understanding and confidence in each other.
Duties and Responsibilities of
Size up the man who is to be your engineer. This man is supposed to know more about the airplane you are to fly than any other member of the crew.
He has been trained in the Air Forces' highly specialized technical schools. Probably he has served some time as a crew chief. Nevertheless, there may be some inevitable blank spots in his training which you, as a pilot and airplane commander, may be able to fill in.
Think back on your own training. In many courses of instruction, you had a lot of things thrown at you from right and left. You had to concentrate on how to fly; and where your equipment was concerned you learned to rely more and more on the enlisted personnel, particularly the crew chief and the engineer, to advise you about things that were not taught to you because of lack of time and the arrangement of the training program.
Both pilot and engineer have a responsibility to work closely together to supplement and fill in the blank spots in each other's education. To be a qualified combat engineer a man must know his airplane, his engines, and his armament equipment thoroughly. This is a big responsibility: the lives of the entire crew, the safety of the equipment, the success of the mission depend upon it squarely.
He must work closely with the copilot, checking engine operation, fuel consumption, and the
operation of all equipment. He must be able to work with the bombardier, and know how to cock, lock, and load the bomb racks. It is up to you, the airplane commander, to see that he is familiar with these
duties, and, if he is hazy concerning them, to have the bombardier give him special help and
He must be thoroughly familiar with the armament equipment, and know how to strip, clean, and re-assemble the guns.
He should have a general knowledge of radio equipment, and be able to assist in tuning transmitters
Your engineer should be your chief source of information concerning the airplane. He should know more about the equipment than any other crew member -- yourself included.
You, in turn, are his source of information concerning flying. Bear this in mind in all your discussions with the engineer. The more complete you can make his knowledge of the reasons behind every function of the equipment, the more valuable he will be as a member of the crew. Who knows? Someday that little bit of extra knowledge in the engineer's mind may save the day in some emergency.
Generally, in emergencies, the engineer will be the man to whom you turn first. Build up his pride, his confidence, his knowledge. Know him personally; check on the extent of his knowledge. Make him a man upon whom you can rely.
Duties and Responsibilities of
THE RADIO OPERATOR
B-17 Radio Room
There is a lot of radio equipment in today's B-17's. There is one man in particular who is supposed to know all there is to know about this equipment. Sometimes he does, but often he doesn't. And when the radio operator's deficiencies do not become apparent until the crew is in the combat zone, it is then too late. Too often the lives of pilots and crew are lost because the radio operator has accepted his responsibility indifferently.
Radio is a subject that cannot be learned in a day. It cannot be mastered in 6 weeks, but sufficient knowledge can be imparted to the radio man during his period of training in the United States if he is willing to study. It is imperative that you check your radio operator's ability to handle his job before taking him overseas as part of your crew. To do this you may have to check the various departments to find any weakness in the radio operator's training and proficiency and to aid the instructors in overcoming such weaknesses.
Training in the various phases of the heavy bomber program is designed to fit each member
of the crew for the handling of his jobs. The radio operator will be required to:
- Render position reports every 30 minutes.
- Assist the navigator in taking fixes.
- Keep the liaison and command sets properly tuned and in good operating order.
- Understand from an operational point of view:
and other navigational aids equipment in the airplane.
- Instrument landing
- Maintain a log.
In addition to being a radio operator, the radio man is also a gunner. During periods of combat he will be required to leave his watch at the radio and take up his guns. He is often required to learn photography. Some of the best pictures taken in the Southwest Pacific were taken by radio operators. The radio operator who cannot perform his job properly may be the weakest member of your crew -- and the crew is no stronger than its weakest member.
Duties and Responsibilities of
S/Sgt Richard K. Baer
The B-17 is a most effective gun platform, but its effectiveness can be either applied or defeated by the way the gunners in your crew perform their duties in action.
Your gunners belong to one of two distinct categories: turret gunners and flexible gunners.
The power turret gunners require many mental and physical qualities similar to what we know as inherent flying ability, since the operation of the power turret and gunsight are much like that of airplane flight operation.
While the flexible gunners do not require the same delicate touch as the turret gunner, they must have a fine sense of timing and he familiar with the rudiments of exterior ballistics.
All gunners should be familiar with the coverage area of all gun positions, and be prepared to bring the proper gun to bear as the conditions may warrant.
They should be experts in aircraft identification. Where the Sperry turret is used, failure to set the target dimension dial properly on the K-type sight will result in miscalculation of range.
They must be thoroughly familiar with the Browning aircraft machine gun. They should know how to maintain the guns, how to clear jams and stoppages, and how to harmonize the sights with the guns.
While participating in training flights, the gunners should be operating their turrets constantly,
tracking with the flexible guns even when actual firing is not practical. Other airplanes flying in the vicinity offer excellent tracking targets, as do automobiles, houses, and other ground objects during low altitude flights.
The importance of teamwork cannot he overemphasized. One poorly trained gunner, or one man not on the alert, can be the weak link as a result of which the entire crew may be lost.
Keep the interest of your gunners alive at all times. Any form of competition among the gunners themselves should stimulate interest to a high degree.
Finally, each gunner should fire the guns at each station to familiarize himself with the other man's position and to insure knowledge of operation in the event of an emergency.