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B-17, Twelve O’Clock Low

By Paul Cox

Paul Cox, an air traffic controller in Washington state, shared this story on Facebook of a recent exchange he had involving EAA’s B-17.

September 17, 2015 - ATC/pilot types will get a kick out of this. I’m working Sector 6 and I get a B-17 Flying Fortress for flight following southbound out of SLE (Salem, Oregon.)

(Over 12,000 B-17s were produced starting in the late 1930s through WWII. Maybe 10 of them are flying today.)

I’ve also got a Cessna 172 Skyhawk (over 40,000 produced, still in production, tens of thousands still flying today) northbound and merging with the B-17.

The C172 needs a turn for the localizer but I leave him on his course so he can get a look at the bomber.

Me: “N123, traffic 11 to 12 o’clock, five miles, 500 feet below you, it’s a B-17 Flying Fortress. You need a turn for the localizer but I’ll leave you on course if you want to get a look at him.”

N123: “Wow, thanks! That’s cool! Looking for traffic.”

Me: “Fortress 017N, traffic 12 o’clock, four miles, 500 feet above you, it’s a Cessna 172.”

Fortress: “Negative contact, we’re looking.”

Me: “Meh, don’t bother, people see 172s all the time.”

N123: “Okay, gotta admit, that’s pretty funny.”

(The B-17 got the C172 in sight and climbed up over him, the 172 pilot said it was pretty awesome.)

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