Flight Engineer OJT
After the Christmas break, I was scheduled for OJT (on-the-job-training) as a flight engineer on a B-29. The engineer had to collect data about the missions, such as airplane weight, flight altitudes, predicted temperatures at altitudes, etc. With the flight plan information the engineer had to chart the fuel consumption for the proposed flight. The airspeed required for the airplane's weight and horsepower settings for the engines had to be predicted before the flight and adjusted during flight as conditions deviated from the plan. The balance of the training consisted of flying the engineer's panel under the supervision of an engineer instructor.
The engineer helped the flight crew with the preflight inspection. After all members of the flight crew were at their station, the flight engineer started the engines. The pilot would taxi to a run up area and the engineer would check magnetos, generators, and a full power check while the pilot or copilot checked propeller controls.
The pilots then operated the engines until after takeoff and climb. Upon reaching altitude and leveling off, the engineer took control of the engines and set the RPM and manifold pressure according to the flight requirements. The engineer knew at all times how much fuel was still on board. While continually making calculations for engine settings and fuel consumption, the engineer was responsible for monitoring a whole panel of instruments. Every engine had a gauge for manifold pressure, RPM, oil pressure, oil quantity and temperature, generator output, cylinder head temperature, outside air temperature, altitude and more. If an engine had to be shut down during flight, both the pilot and engineer had procedures to follow to stop the engine. Following an engine shutdown, which required feathering the prop, the engineer had to increase the power on the remaining engines to compensate for the lost engine.
These were just the highlights of the flight engineer's job. Being a flight engineer was really a high point in my air force experience. I should mention that I was promoted to Staff Sergeant while training for flight engineer.
On my first training flight with an instructor, we were flying level right after climbing to our cruising altitude when I was instructed to transfer fuel from the center wing tank to the wing tanks. This was a normal procedure and involved operating fuel shutoff valves and fuel pumps in a proper sequence. I turned off the valves at the wrong time and all four engines immediately lost power. The automatic prop controls kept the engines rotating at the established RPM, but the airplane was suddenly quiet. The pilot looked over his shoulder at me as the instructor quickly corrected the error. The engines started again with no hesitation and I wanted to reassure the pilot. I had the throat microphone on and said, "No sweat, Sir, I just turned off the engines." I guess that must have been comforting to the pilot and all on board.