When Military Jets Get Feisty

This story was offered up to me by youtube’s algorithm, because I had been searching for videos about Project Ares.

When I saw the title, I thought, “what, did someone forget to set the parking brake?” Nothing so simple. Spoilers after the video (which is worth a few minutes of your time)

So, apparently one way to clear a clogged compressor on your harrier is to eject.

Short form of the story: a harrier pilot was on a mission at low level, and ingested a bird, which caused the engine to stall. He was at 200 feet above ground (!) so he wisely aimed for a good spot and ejected. The plane, however, continued to fly, gaining altitude, and soared off heading toward then-hostile East Germany.

Reading the comments on this story, I wound up doing more research and it turns out that “military jet soars off and attacks someplace all on its own” is not exactly common but that sort of thing has happened before. Having your plane leave you behind has got to be the cause for some truly epic ribbing in the O-club.

I am also curious about the landing gear of the jumpjet. It looks like a really kludged-up bit of engineering. I assume the pogo-wheels are to keep the plane from flipping over in a VTOL with a cross-wind. That is one fugly aircraft.

Military gear fascinates me, because it tends to be close to the cutting edge of performance, cost, and constraints. Although it’s almost always super-expensive nowadays, historically it has been the area where “get the job done” rules. Well, except for the F-35, which tries really hard.


  1. avalus says

    Uh, I don’t know. As far as military aircraft go, the harriers are in my opinion among the more elegant designs. But artistic impressions on machines of death amd destruction vary.

    Wasn’t there a story about a canadian fighter that shot itself in flight with it’s own cannon by overtanking it’s bullets?

  2. says

    Wasn’t there a story about a canadian fighter that shot itself in flight with it’s own cannon by overtanking it’s bullets?

    That is correct. I’m not sure if it was Canadian (if it was, I’m sure the pilot apologized) but if I recall correctly the plane was shooting at a towed target, then dove and re-converged on its rounds a few miles downrange. I don’t believe the pilot was awarded a “kill” for that, though.

  3. Rob Grigjanis says

    avalus @1: If I were an ORB (Obscenely Rich Bastard), I’d have a Harrier for personal transportation. I think they’re beautiful.

  4. lurker753 says

    The pogos are there so it doesn’t fall over on the ground, a little less gracefully than the U2 does. Notice the Harrier’s main gear layout is bicycle (like the U2), not the usual tricycle, because the aft jet nozzles are in the way (maybe not mechanically, but hot-jet-blast-on-tires in the way). While hovering, stability is achieved with downward-pointing jet nozzles under wingtips, nose and tail, fed from the engine, with a gyroscope controlling the valves. Of course, if things went wrong with any of this, they could go very wrong very fast, so pilots were just that little bit more ready to abandon ship than you might expect.

  5. Ketil Tveiten says

    I like Harriers, they have a whole lot of neat engineering solutions to accomodate the unusual engine/thrust-setup. The wheel layout is a consequence of the overhanging wings (rather than the usual underslung wings), which again is to fit the thrust nozzles on the fuselage side.

  6. Ketil Tveiten says

    They must have had quite a bit of work getting the thrust distribution between the four nozzles right, so the plane would balance correctly on vertical takeoff/landing, as well as work right in short TOL and regular flight.

  7. sonofrojblake says

    I have a great pic of a paraglider belonging to friend of mine, in flight above a crowded launch hill. I use it as a “what’s wrong with this picture?” quiz. It takes even experienced pilots quite a few guesses before they notice the glider is unmanned. It was laid out ready to launch when a gust inflated it. It took off in good order, ascended approximately 1000 feet, turned downwind and headed off across country. He had quite a walk to retrieve it, and is unlikely to ever live it down.(it was completely undamaged – aircraft with no rigid structure ftw!)

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