Accident Boeing SB-17H Flying Fortress 44-83771, Friday 3 January 1947
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Date:Friday 3 January 1947
Time:c. 00:00 LT
Type:Silhouette image of generic B17 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different    
Boeing SB-17H Flying Fortress
Owner/operator:1386th BU (ASR) USAAF
Registration: 44-83771
MSN: 34212
Fatalities:Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 5
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Destroyed
Location:west of Lerwick, Shetland Islands -   United Kingdom
Phase: En route
Departure airport:Meeks Field, Keflavik, Iceland (KEF/BIKF)
Destination airport:RAF Prestwick (PIK/EGPK)
At 14:30 hrs on the 2nd of January, 1947, an SB-17H (44-83771) belonging to the 1386th AAF Base Unit Air Sea Rescue, took off from Keflavik Airfield, Iceland, on a local flight expected to last 2 to 3 hours. However, at approx. one hour after the take off, a snow storm developed and the crew, now on instruments, were given instructions by ATC to fly to Prestwick as the visibility at Keflavik was too bad for the plane to land there and an alternative flight plan was made and radioed to the pilot.

As this had expected to be just a local flight the navigator was without the charts for the new plan. They had no wireless operator on board and little fuel for any contingencies. Drift readings and bearings using the astro-compass and radio compass were taken and showed that stronger than forecast headwinds had slowed the aircraft down and it would take much longer to reach their turning point over Scotland. As well, heavy cloud was hindering any visual contact but eventually an island, that of Shetland, was spotted and it was estimated that they should reach the Scottish mainland within 30 minutes. However, as they continued past their ETA no land was sighted, and the navigator suggested they do a 180-degree turn and head back to the island. This they did and back over Shetland, and at approx. midnight, they flew a few miles offshore, and jettisoning the lifeboat, circled a number of times firing off flares, and then with less than one hour's fuel left the pilot gave the order to abandon the aircraft, and putting it on a southwest course on autopilot, he left the aircraft himself.

Three of the crew landed on Shetland Island itself, one came down on a tiny island in Braewick Voe, and another landed in the sea and struggled to unhitch his chute but fortunately the wind had blown him toward the shore. After a long night, with the co-pilot suffering a sprained knee and the pilot suffering from exposure, all were found and taken to hospital where they were given hot drinks and blankets and treated for their injuries.

The Flying Fortress went down in the sea somewhere to the west of the Shetlands at a location yet to be discovered. Perhaps one day a fishing boat will pull up a piece of wreckage identifed as coming off the SB-17 and the last resting place of 44-83771 will be known.

Pilot: 1st Lt.W.E. Dee.
Co-pilot: 1st Lt. M.H.Craven. Jr.
Navigator: 1st Lt. W.L.Pilcher.
Engineer: H.E.Shields.
Engineer: R. M. Gessert.


1. The Indian Express 4 January 1947, p 5
2. The Times 4 January 1947

Revision history:

14-Oct-2011 04:59 angels one five Updated [Operator, Location, Country, Phase, Nature, Narrative]
23-Jan-2012 05:17 Nepa Updated [Operator, Phase, Nature]
16-Feb-2012 04:59 Nepa Updated [Operator]
26-Apr-2013 03:20 Dr. John Smith Updated [Time, Cn, Total fatalities, Total occupants, Other fatalities, Location, Departure airport, Destination airport, Source, Narrative]
16-Aug-2018 10:47 angels one five Updated [Time, Aircraft type, Location, Narrative]
19-Dec-2018 21:27 TB Updated [Operator, Location, Source]
18-Nov-2019 22:49 Dr. John Smith Updated [Operator, Location, Departure airport, Source, Narrative]
13-Feb-2020 17:10 Iwosh Updated [Operator, Location, Destination airport, Operator]

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