I am certain my father, a B-17 pilot, told stories about his gunner having to beat on the wing of another plane in the formation with the tip of his gun to get the pilot to pull away and avoid a mid-air collision. Anyone have a similar story? Do you know which gunner?

  • $\begingroup$ What does"beat on the wings" mean? My grandfather was also a 17 pilot and he never mentioned that, ever. $\endgroup$
    – acpilot
    Aug 6, 2019 at 2:13
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    $\begingroup$ As in, they were so close in flight that the gunner could reach out and touch the other plane's wing? I strongly suspect that your father was pulling your leg, because if the planes were that close, then the collision was already in progress, and no amount of beating on the wing would do anything to stop it at that point. $\endgroup$ Aug 6, 2019 at 3:08
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    $\begingroup$ Don't think that they would notice your gentle tapping... If I was in the turret and another friendly aircraft was closing in I would send a blast of tracer across his nose to get his attention.. $\endgroup$
    – Anilv
    Aug 6, 2019 at 7:23
  • $\begingroup$ I'd hate to be the wing-tip gunner assigned that responsibility! $\endgroup$
    – FreeMan
    Sep 16, 2019 at 19:41

1 Answer 1


That'd be a roughly 1 meter stick you've got to beat that other aircraft with, at most. Not a long stick at all.

By the time the other aircraft got that close a collision would be unavoidable. Not only would momentum carry them closer, but the banging would likely not even be heard by the crew of the other aircraft.

Remember they'd be wearing headphones, not just for the intercom but even more important for hearing protection. A B-17 is a LOUD aircraft when you're flying it.

Also, by the time you'd get that close the crews of both aircraft would have been screaming at their respective pilots for some time to ask them what the hell they're thinking getting that close to another aircraft.


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