Parking the ‘Flying Fortress’?

A FLYING reader has a question about backing in the iconic Boeing B-17 bomber, and Martha Lunken has the answer.

Boeing B-17G Superfortress “Shoo Shoo Baby” at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. [Courtesy: U.S. Air Force]

Q: The Boeing B-17 bomber is a four-engine taildragger that doesn’t have reversible-pitch propellers. How is it possible to back the "Flying Fortress" into a parking space from within the cockpit?

A: Yes. The No. 1 and No. 4 engines are outboard of the respective left and right main landing-gear wheels. So, the pilot locks the left brake and applies power to the left outboard engine, causing the airplane to pivot on the left tire and forcing the right tire to roll aft. The pilot then applies right brake and adds power to the right outboard engine, which causes the left tire to roll aft. By alternating No. 1 and No. 4 engine power, and left and right wheel brakes, the pilot can “walk” the entire airplane backward.

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Martha Lunken is a lifelong pilot, former FAA inspector and defrocked pilot examiner. She flies a Cessna 180 and anything with a tailwheel, from Cubs to DC-3s.

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