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Aerial Observers
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B-17 Crew Requirements and Standard Operating Procedures
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AERIAL OBSERVERS
HEADQUARTERS
303RD BOMBARDMENT GROUP (H)
APO 557, U.S. ARMY
15 October 1944

  1. In each Squadron Lead Aircraft, an officer will ride in the tail gunner's position to act as Aerial Observer. [Usually a Pilot or Co-Pilot.]

  2. His primary function is to give the Squadron Leader a running account of the number and condition of the aircraft in his formation throughout the mission. The following items are important factors to be reported and will be used only as an outline:

    1. Keep the Squadron Leader posted on the Squadron assembly and notify him when all aircraft are in proper assembly. The Aerial Observer in the Group Leader's aircraft will, in addition, keep the Group Leader informed as to position of the High and Low Squadrons during assembly and particularly as the time for departing the assembly point approaches.

    2. Keep the Squadron Leader informed as to any changes in formation, aircraft leaving the formation, straggling, etc.

    3. Notify the Squadron Leader the position and distance of all fighter aircraft (Friendly or Enemy). If the fighter aircraft is enemy or it is suspected to be enemy, the Observer will keep the Pilot constantly advised as to the fighters actions to enable the Pilot to take evasive action. Fighter aircraft generally begin their attacks at a range of 1,500 yards and evasive action MUST be taken before the fighter Pilot commits himself to the attack.

    4. The greatest emphasis is to be placed on the compactness of the formation during the bomb run and it is of prime importance that the Leader be given a running account of the formation at this time. He also will make note of all aircraft dropping bombs early or late.

  3. His secondary function is to make a report after the mission on the formation flown that day.

  4. The purpose of that report is as follows:

    1. To establish a numerical rating for each Pilot in the formation.

    2. To make constructive suggestions as to how the individual Pilots can improve their formation flying by pointing out the errors made.

  5. The report will be made as follows:

    1. The Lead Squadron Aerial Observer will rate the Lead aircraft of the High and Low Squadrons on the quality of their Squadron leadership in relation to Group formation on the basis of excellent, good, fair or poor.

    2. The Aerial Observer in each Squadron will rate all the Pilots in that Squadron on a numerical basis with the Pilot flying the best formation as #1 and so on through #12.

    3. The Pilots are to be rated on their overall formation flying throughout the mission with the greater emphasis placed on the correctness of formation flying during the bomb run. If any aircraft is forced to lag because of battle damage which hinders the normal efficiency of the aircraft, it will be rated on its performance up to the time it suffered the damage.

By order of the Group Commander
GLYNN F. SHUMAKE
Major, Air Corps
Operations Officer