B-17G Crew Position: Pilot

Pilot's duties and responsibilities on B-17 Flying Fortress

  • Commander of the aircraft; sometimes of the formation as well
  • Handle all aspects of aircraft flight
  • Build camaraderie amongst the crew
  • Ensure each crew member received proper training
  • One of only two of the crew that did not have a machine gun to man (copilot being the other)

B-17 Pilot Position


B-17 Pilot

The pilot of the B-17 was the “aircraft commander.” Typically, he was a 21 year old, newly introduced to military life, as was the rest of the crew. He had just graduated from flight training school with little flight time and no experience. His job was to physically fly the airplane. He was assisted in doing this by the co-pilot assigned to the crew. Both pilots were expected to know the operational characteristics of the B-17 and the functioning of all its systems.

The pilot was also charged with ensuring that the training syllabus set up for the crew was accomplished and that each member of the crew received the training required.

B-17 Pilot Training
Cadets learned the skill of formation flying early in flight school.


B-17 Buzzing Tower
This pilot gives the tower a “Buzz Job” after completing his 25th and final mission.

The pilot was responsible for the individual operation of each and every flight the crew conducted, whether in the training phase or on combat missions. The course of action taken in any emergency was his decision to make. If time permitted, it was made with input from the pertinent crew members. In many instances the urgency of the situation did not permit such input until after the fact.

The combat crew of a B-17, or any other multiple crew aircraft, developed a rapport and a camaraderie; the tone of which was set, to a large degree, by the crew’s pilot.

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