HOW TO DITCH THE B-17
Pilot Training Manual for the Flying Fortress
Published for Headquarters, AAF, Office of Assistant Chief of Air Staff Training
by Headquarters, AAF, Office of Flying Safety (circa 1943-44)
How to Bail out of the B-17
Ditching drill is the responsibility of the
pilot. Duties should be studied, altered if necessary to agree with any
modifications, memorized, and practiced until each member of the
crew performs them instinctively.
The pilot's warning to prepare for ditching
should be acknowledged by the crew in the
order given here - copilot, navigator, bombardier,
flight engineer, radio operator, ball turret gunner, right waist gunner, left waist
gunner, and tail gunner, i.e., "Copilot ditching," "Navigator ditching," etc.
Upon acknowledgment, crew members remove parachutes, loosen shirt collars and remove ties and oxygen masks unless above
12,000 feet. When preparations for ditching are
begun above 12,000 feet, main. oxygen supply
or emergency oxygen bottle is used until notification by the pilot. All crew members wearing winter flying boots should remove them.
No other clothing should be removed.
Releases on life rafts should not be pulled
until the plane comes to rest.
Beware of puncturing rafts on wing and
horizontal surfaces after launching. The dinghies should be tied together as soon as possible.
Injured men should get first consideration when leaving the airplane.
Life vests should not be inflated inside the
plane unless the crew member is certain that
the escape hatch through which he will exit
is large enough to accommodate him with the
When personnel are in dinghy, stock of rations and equipment should be taken by the
airplane commander (or copilot). Strict rationing must be maintained. Flares should be used
sparingly and only if there is a reasonable
chance that they will be seen by ships or aircraft. Don't forget the Very pistol.
Lash the life rafts together.
Landing crosswind is recommended unless
the wind exceeds about 30 mph, in which case
land into the wind. In executing the crosswind
landing, the pilot will line up with the lines of
the crests, at any convenient altitude, adjust
flaps, power settings, trim, and make the approach with a minimum rate of descent with
a minimum forward speed. Land on a crest
parallel to the line of crests or troughs. Crabbing will be necessary to remain over the crest
while making the approach.
DUTIES OF THE CREW
- Give "Prepare for ditching" warning
over interphone; give altitude; sound ditching
bell signal of six short rings.
- Fasten safety harness.
- Open and close window to insure freedom of movement. Place ax handy for use in
case of possible jamming.
- Order radio operator to ditching post.
- Order tail gunner to lower the tailwheel
by cranking about 10 turns.
- 20 seconds before impact, order the crew
to "brace for ditching." Give long ring on signal bell.
- Release safety harness and parachute
straps. Exit through side window when airplane comes to rest. Inflate life vest.
- Proceed to left dinghy, cut tie ropes.
- Assists pilot to fasten safety harness.
- Fastens own safety harness, opens and
closes right window to insure freedom of movement.
- Releases safety harness, parachute
straps, exits through right window when plane
comes to rest. Inflates life vest.
- Proceeds to right dinghy, cuts ropes.
- Calculates position, course, speed, giving this information to the radio operator.
Destroys secret papers. Gathers maps and celestial
equipment. Gives wind and direction to the pilot.
- Proceeds to radio compartment. Closes
radio compartment door.
- Attaches rope on emergency radio equipment and signal set (if radio is stored in radio
- Assumes ditching position.
- Hands the following items in the order
given to the bombardier, who is already out: signal set and emergency radio, ration kits,
navigation kits, parachutes.
- Exits through radio hatch and goes to left dinghy.
- Jettisons bombs, closes bomb bay doors,
destroys bombsight, goes to radio compartment,
closing compartment door. Takes first-aid kits
to radio compartment.
- Takes position, partially inflates life vest
by pulling cord on one side.
- Directs and assists exit of men through
radio hatch. Stands above and forward of hatch
and receives equipment from navigator and
hands it to crew members as follows: signal set
and radio to radio operator; ration kit No. 1 to
tail gunner; ration kit No. 2 to right waist
gunner; navigation kit to ball turret gunner;
pigeon crate to left waist gunner. Assists flight
engineer in making exit.
- Goes to right dinghy.
- Jettisons ammunition and loose equipment, turns top turret guns to depressed
position pointing forward.
- Goes to radio compartment. Lowers the
radio hatch and moves it to the rear of the
plane, jettisons loose equipment in radio compartment, and slides back top gun.
- Stands with back to aft door of radio
compartment and assists other members out by
- Last man to leave radio compartment,
with bombardier's help. Goes to left dinghy.
SOS . . . AND ASSUME POSITIONS
Ball Turret Gunner
- Switches on liaison transmitter (tuned
to MFDF) sends SOS, position and call sign
continuously, turns, IFF to distress, remains on
intercom, transmits all information given by
- Obtains MFDF fix, continues SOS, remains on intercom.
- On pilot's order, clamps key, takes ditching, position, inflating life, vest partially,
remains on intercom, repeating pilot's "Brace for ditching" to crew.
- Receives signal kit and emergency radio from bombardier.
- Assists with dinghy inflation and inspects for leaks.
- Goes to right dinghy.
Right Waist Gunner
- Turns turret guns aft, closes turret tightly, goes to radio compartment with first-aid
kits and ration kits.
- Pulls, both dinghy releases as aircraft
comes to rest.
- Goes to left dinghy.
Left Waist Gunner
- Jettisons his gun, ammunition, all loose
- Closes right waist window tightly, goes
to radio compartment, collecting emergency
radio and signal box in fuselage (if radio is
stored elsewhere than in radio compartment).
- Takes. position, partially inflates vest.
- Assists in inflating right dinghy, inspects
for leaks, applying stoppers if necessary.
- Jettisons his gun, ammunition, loose
equipment, closes left waist window, goes to
- Partially inflates vest.
- Receives pigeon crate from bombardier.
- Goes to right dinghy.
- Jettisons ammunition; goes forward,
cranks down tailwheel about 10 turns; collects
emergency ration pack (stowed in fuselage); is
last to enter radio compartment.
- Takes position, partially inflates life vest.
- Carrying ration pack, goes to left dinghy,
assists with dinghy inflation, inspects for leaks.
BRACE FOR DITCHING
CREW POSITIONS FOR DITCHING
The positions illustrated should best enable
crew members to withstand the impact of crash
landings on either land or water. On water 2
impacts will be felt, the first a mild jolt when
the tail strikes, the second a severe shock when
the nose strikes the water. Positions should be
maintained until the aircraft comes to rest.
Study them carefully.
Emergency equipment for use in the dinghy
should be, carried to crash positions. Any equipment carried free must be held securely during
ditching to prevent injury.
Parachute pads, seat cushions, etc., should
be used to protect the face, head, and back.
HOW TO DETERMINE WIND SPEED
- Jettison bombs, ammunition, guns and all
loose equipment and secure that equipment
which might cause injury. Close bomb bay
doors and lower hatches. If there is not enough
time to release bombs or depth charges place
them on "SAFE." Retain enough fuel to make
a power landing.
- Navigator calculates position, course, and
speed and passes data to radio operator. Latter
tunes liaison transmitter to MFDF and sends
SOS, position and call sign continuously. Radio
operator also turns IFF to distress and remains
on intercom; clamps down key on order to take
- These tips will help you determine wind
direction and speed: (a) waves in open sea
move downwind; (b) direction of spray indicates wind direction; (c) wind lanes - a series
of lines or alternate strips of light and shade also show direction; (d) approach on waves
should be made into wind at right angles to
them; (e) approach on swells should be made
along top, parallel to swell, and may be executed in winds not over 10 mph.
A FEW WHITE CRESTS||10 to 20 mph|
MANY WHITE CRESTS||20 to 30 mph|
FOAM STREAKS ON WATER||30 to 40 mph|
SPRAY FROM CRESTS||40 to 50 mph||