In the book Never Call me a Hero, the author mentions that there were controls in the rear seat of the Douglas SBD Dauntless. However, I don't recall ever hearing this before, though I know the TBD had controls in the second seat. Did the SBD have controls in the rear seat?


3 Answers 3


The Dauntless did have controls for the rear gunner- a pair of permanently attached rudder pedals and a control stick that was stowed away on the port side until needed. See:


Juan Jimenez is correct that it would be very difficult to operate, what with the armour plate for the pilot and the radios right in front of the gunner. See here for a story of flying a veteran Dauntless where the pilot gets a brief familiarisation flight from the gunner's seat (it's mentioned in the fourth paragraph after "SBD Glider: Engine Out"):


You can see the gunner's control view at the Smithsonian's walk-around view of the Dauntless, it's images four and seven in the collection (six shows the pilot's view and eight the gunner's real place of business):


Photo seven enter image description here

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I stand corrected, and I would hate to be the poor soul stuck with trying to land that on a carrier with a disabled or dead pilot up front. $\endgroup$ Jun 21, 2019 at 13:09
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Agreed, I think the limit to flying from the rear seat would be "roughly straight and vaguely level" for as long as it takes the pilot to finish scribbling on his maps or until the plane was in a safe-ish place for a bail-out. $\endgroup$
    – Sargs
    Jun 21, 2019 at 13:22
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ No kidding. There is no panel back there! No instruments, no navigation, nothing. i wonder if the gunner could even use the radio! That's nuts. $\endgroup$ Jun 21, 2019 at 13:29
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Also: Very nice for a first answer! Welcome! $\endgroup$
    – FreeMan
    Jun 21, 2019 at 13:42
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @JuanJimenez Even without a radio, a few warning shots above the tower should be sufficient for landing clearance. $\endgroup$
    – Sneftel
    Jun 21, 2019 at 15:42

The concept of the rear controls (stick and rudder pedals) was two fold in that

  1. the gunner/radio operator could recover the aircraft in a nose up climb attitude if/when the pilot blacked out from excessive G during a dive


  1. the aircraft could be recovered to straight and level should the pilot be incapacitated allowing the rear seater to bail out. The rear controls were never intended to land this aircraft. Interestingly the Germans incorporated an auto recovery capability into their Stukas in the early 1930s, this technology was never adopted by US manufacturers
  • $\begingroup$ Wouldn't the gunner black out from excessive G before the pilot? The pilot is causing it, therefore he's anticipating it and that should slightly increase his resistance to it even if back then they didn't know the right tricks for it. $\endgroup$
    – Jan Hudec
    Aug 28, 2022 at 7:42

The gunner always controlled the radio but he had no access to tail hook, engine control beyond throttle or anything else much needed to land safely on a ship.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center. $\endgroup$
    – Community Bot
    Aug 26, 2022 at 12:13

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .