Abandoning the B-17: Bail Out & Crash Landing

From the Pilot’s Manual for Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress:


a. ESCAPE DOORS AND HATCHES. – All doors and hatches are quickly releasable. The side gunner’s windows slide forward to open. Bomb doors may be opened by either of two emergency release handles, one at the left of the pilot and the other at the forward end of the catwalk in the bomb bay.


(1) Stand by to abandon: one long ring (approximately 6 seconds).

(2) Abandon airplane: three short rings (approximately 2 seconds each).

c. SWITCHES. – The situation will determine whether fuel and electrical systems should be turned off prior to abandoning the airplane. Under normal conditions outside of combat zones, the master ignition switch battery switches and fuel shut-off valve switches should be turned off.

B-17 Flying Fortress: Bail Out and Crash Landing Procedures



(1) Stand by for crash landing; by interphone.

(2) Abandon: four short rings (approximately 1/2 second each).

(3) Pilot should:

(a) Cut engines.

(b) Turn master switch “OFF.”

(c) Turn battery switches “OFF.”

(d) Turn fuel shut-off valve switches “OFF.”


(1) All crew members will take proper stations, remove parachutes, and fasten safety belts upon receiving interphone warning.

(2) At the signal to abandon, all crew members will leave the plane through the most practicable exit. (See figure.)

(3) In addition to the seven standard exits, the two side windows in the pilot’s compartment are possible exits.

(4) In case some of the exits are blocked by fire, damage, or congestion, it may be best to make exit through a rupture in the fuselage, if any have occurred. Caution is required in this process to avoid fatal cuts from metal or broken glass.

(5) If there is imminent danger of fire, all personnel should disperse at least 50 feet from the airplane.

Key to Figure:

A-Bomb Door Control Handle
B-Bomb Release Handle
C-Emergency Bomb Release Handle
D-Engine Fire Extinguisher Controls
E-Fire Extinguisher AC Type A-2 (Carbon Tetrachloride)
F-Life Rafts
G-Life Raft Release Handle
H-First Aid Kit
I-Emergency Door Handle
J-Fire Extinguisher AC Type A-17 (CO2)


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