Home » Aviation » Boeing B17 Pilots Often Accidentally Raise the Undercarriage After Landing, Destroying the Propellors and Damaging the Underbelly because the Undercarriage Lever and the Flap Lever Look the Same.

Boeing B17 Pilots Often Accidentally Raise the Undercarriage After Landing, Destroying the Propellors and Damaging the Underbelly because the Undercarriage Lever and the Flap Lever Look the Same.

The Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, also known as the Flying Fortress, helped the Allies win World War II, but it had a design flaw that cost many passengers and crew their lives. But did you know that there was a flaw in the design of the Boeing B17 that it caused pilots to cause damage to the propellors and underbelly of the aircraft?

Because the undercarriage lever and the flap lever look the same, Boeing B17 pilots frequently raised the undercarriage after landing, destroying the propellors and damaging the underbelly.

The B-17 Bomber

The B-17 Flying Fortress, one of the most well-known bombers of all time, became famous for its long daylight bombing raids over Europe during WWII. While it lacked the range and bomb load of the B-24 Liberator, the B-17 became the more famous of the two due to numerous stories of B-17s bringing their crews home despite heavy damage. 

With up to thirteen machine guns, the B-17 appeared to be a genuine flying “fortress in the sky.” However, in the face of stiff German opposition, bomber losses reached an unacceptable level in 1943. The B-17s welcomed the introduction of long-range fighter escorts before they could continue their war against the Reich.

Boeing began Project 299 on August 16, 1934, only eight days after receiving the official government request for a prototype multi-engine bomber to be ready by August of the following year. The specifications called for a plane that could transport a 2,000-pound payload over a distance of 1,000 to 2,000 miles at speeds ranging from 200 to 250 m.p.h.

The Boeing designers drew on their experience building the civil transport Model 247 and developing the Model 294 bomber. After the prototype’s first flight on July 28, 1935, it flew from Seattle, Washington, to Wright Patterson AFB, Ohio, proving it could fly over 2,000 miles nonstop in nine hours.

During the Pearl Harbor raid, few B-17s were in service on December 7, 1941, but production quickly ramped up. The aircraft saw action in every combat zone during WWII, but it is best known for its strategic daylight bombing of German industrial targets. Production ended in May 1945, with a total of 12,731 units produced. The name Flying Fortress has made its way into the realms of myth and legend. The B-17, perhaps more than any other plane, symbolized the power of American aviation during the years when Axis troops overran Europe. (Source: End Sight)

What was the Design Flaw of the Boeing B17?

The B17 Bomber was a critical weapon during WWII. There was an issue with them, unfortunately. The planes were crash-landing. The landing gear was being retracted after landing while the planes were still on the ground. The propeller would collide with the ground, destroying the engine and rendering the plane inoperative.

After many planes were destroyed, it was finally determined to be a pilot error. The B17 was, in fact, the first plane to use hydraulics to power both the flaps and the landing gear. Pilots would lower the flaps first, followed by the landing gear when approaching a landing. They would raise the flaps after landing. However, on occasion, pilots would raise the landing gear instead of the flaps. Commanders were enraged! They tried everything, from checklists to training to discipline and pilot dismissal. Let us take a moment to consider the financial and resource loss to the military as a result of pilot dismissal.

Finally, a mechanical engineer approached the problem in a novel way. He noticed that the controls were identical and close together. He decided to try a novel countermeasure. He created a small flap and attached it to the flap control, as well as a small wheel and attached it to the landing gear control. Surprisingly, the problem never occurred again. (Source: End Sight

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