Watching this incredible B-29 Superfortress flight, I was amazed to see that it required a dedicated person to manage the 4 engines and their power levels.

Why was the throttle not placed between the two pilots, like the modern airliners of today?

  • $\begingroup$ @Sanchises "Why was the throttle not placed between the two pilots, like the modern airliners of today?" I read this as asking why the pilots didn't have a common throttle lever set between their stations -- which I covered in my answer. $\endgroup$ – Zeiss Ikon Oct 19 '18 at 12:00
  • $\begingroup$ @ZeissIkon I see - interesting answer! $\endgroup$ – Sanchises Oct 19 '18 at 13:41
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    $\begingroup$ Well worth the watch if you have the time: youtube.com/watch?v=R5D1f_1XU8w $\endgroup$ – Sam Oct 19 '18 at 17:40
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    $\begingroup$ It looks like it also requires a dedicated person to make a video of the flight through the nose glass... $\endgroup$ – Michael Oct 19 '18 at 18:00

This setup was actually pretty common for four-engine aircraft of the day. Look at the cockpits of airliners from DC-4 to Lockheed Constellation, and you'll always see a dedicated flight engineer station -- not to the level of managing throttles (which would require a voice command from the PIC to change power setting, impractical for the reaction times required in flight), but to manage the relatively complex and failure-prone large radial engines. The flight engineer station persisted well into the jet era -- at least to the early versions of the 747, which first flew in 1969.

However, if you look closely at a B-29 cockpit, you'll see each pilot has an individual throttle lever set -- they're not between the yokes because of the crawlway for the bombardier station. Rather, they're outboard of the seats, near the (presumably pitch) trim wheels. There were also propeller controls, though they're harder to identify in a cockpit photo. With constant speed propellers, the only control required on an immediate basis was throttle (the flight engineer managed synchronization), and both control seats had throttles, as well as the ability to feather a dead engine.

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    $\begingroup$ The pilot had propeller controls as well. 4 toggle switches with a gang bar for simultaneous operation of the Curtis Electric propellers. $\endgroup$ – John K Oct 19 '18 at 12:00
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    $\begingroup$ Thanks, @JohnK -- edited. $\endgroup$ – Zeiss Ikon Oct 19 '18 at 12:08
  • $\begingroup$ What would happen if the pilots moved their throttle levers in opposing directions? $\endgroup$ – Sean Jan 12 at 23:12
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    $\begingroup$ @Sean the controls were tied to the same cables, so if one was moved, the other moved as well, same as the yokes and rudder pedals. $\endgroup$ – Zeiss Ikon Jan 13 at 22:35

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