Throw It Overboard

Commentariat(tm) Underwater Obstreperousness Agent Patrick Slattery sent me this story, to brighten my day. Because, unlike some of you, I probably didn’t pay for it. The Brits, apparently have figured out what to do with their F-35s.

Let’s just start with the good part, shall we?

It looks as though the Brits have built a Russian-style ski jump on the front of the HMS Queen Elizabeth and have decided that they are going to launch F-35s using a combination on vectored thrust and fling-launch. I assume some test pilot did this safely a few times and figured out all the angles and now they’re teaching the rest of the pilots (we few, we tiny band of brothers that fly F-35s) – I bet this is really fun when the deck is pitching in a storm. This occurred in the Mediterranean, where presumably the Brits are enjoying the relatively calm seas and the French beaches.

The story is reported in various places, but this seems as thorough as everyplace else: [sky] Nobody has posted any better video.

In fact, the video is an interesting story – you can tell from the frame that the video appears to be someone pointing their phone at a surveillance camera’s output. My guess is that the leaker has already been identified and is already in A Lot Of Trouble for embarrassing her highness, or something.

You can see that the aircraft has its hood scoop up, which means that the vertical lift fans are engaged. So, the operation appears to be a sort of “all or nothing” leap off the end of the carrier, at which point the pilot will light the afterburners and gain forward momentum before the plane falls into the water, like this one did. Here, the pilot appears to have figured out that something was wrong and they didn’t have enough forward speed, and ejected in time so that they will be able to tell their friends at the pub, someday, that they were there at the center of one of the most expensive aviation accidents in the navy’s history. The UK currently has about 20 F-35s deployed, so that would mean 5% of the F-35 complement just got launched into the Mediterranean.


  1. Rob Grigjanis says

    It looks as though the Brits have built a Russian-style ski jump on the front of the HMS Queen Elizabeth…

    What makes it ‘Russian-style’? The aircraft carriers Invincible and Hermes used ski jumps for their Sea Harriers during the Falklands War in heavy Atlantic seas.

  2. sonofrojblake says

    Echoing Rob Grigjanis @1 – ski jump aircraft carriers are a literally battle-proven technology, with the caveat that you need an actually usable aircraft too. But we retired all of those and bought American instead.

  3. kestrel says

    Hmmm… nothing vertical going on… nothing horizontal going on… as the Partner says, WTF were they thinking? It looks like a Sunday drive off the ship. Good thing the pilot made it, now they have Someone To Blame. And that is just so important in these situations.

  4. says

    kestrel@3: “It looks like a Sunday drive off the ship.” Hilarious comment, because it’s so true.

    I’m seeing stories saying it looks like a rain cover (or something similar) was not removed before the attempted take-off. And also that the rain cover was likely sucked into the engine.

    There is also speculation that the hull of the aircraft carrier could have been damaged if it ran over the F-35.

  5. says

    Rob Grigjanis@#1:
    What makes it ‘Russian-style’?

    Indeed, you are right, I had that wrong. I thought that the Russians were the only people building that particular design, and didn’t recognize that bit of brilliance as British in origin.

    Maybe I am missing something, but it seems to be a bad design. For one thing, it makes landing a bit more dangerous. For another, it sort of refutes the whole point of having VTOL aircraft in the first place. I imagine it must also make the design of a catapult either much more complex, or impossible – and catapults work damn well, unless they’re the state of the art electromagnetic ones, of course. Of course one can easily argue that the whole idea is ridiculous, until you look at the systems for reeling in light aircraft, like Bismarck had.

  6. Rob Grigjanis says

    Marcus @6: Take off is via ski jump, landing is vertical. The ski jump saves on fuel/energy, especially with a fully loaded plane. There is no catapult.

  7. sonofrojblake says

    To expand slightly on 8:
    Most aircraft have a specific carrying capacity for armaments and fuel, e.g. fully fuelled, an F-15 can carry this many air-to-air missiles, that many bombs, and a fixed number of anti-ship missiles, bullets, chaff canisters, or whatever.

    The Harrier is different. If your Harrier can take off like a normal aircraft (i.e. with ALL its thrust vectored to the rear like any normal jet engine), then it’s got a pretty respectable carrying capacity for an aircraft of its size. If it’s forced to take off vertically (i.e. vector ALL of its thrust down), then that capacity is fucked. It can still take off armed, but to nowhere near the operational capacity it could when launching conventionally.

    The ski-jump allow the Harrier to operate somewhere between these two extremes – a LOT of thrust is vectored back, the ski-jump gives it a bit of extra vertical thrust as it leaves, but because it’s a Harrier it can be directing some of its thrust downwards too, to help, before assuming normal flight once it’s up and away. This means it can carry much closer to its maximum load of weaponry.

    Plus, when the plane comes back, much lighter on fuel and presumably lighter on weapons, it can simply set down vertically – no arrestor wires required..

    There are many benefits to this system:
    1. the ship can be small, and therefore cheap – it doesn’t need to be the size of a town like a US aircraft carrier (I once saw a British carrier up close in Majorca… next to the US carrier it was with, it looked like a bath toy.).
    2. the deck can be simple – it’s just a runway. Cheap, again, AND safer. No fast moving parts where people might be walking about (apart from the jets, obvs).
    3. if your catapult system breaks, you can’t launch ANY aircraft. If each of your aircraft is capable of taking off without help, their effectiveness isn’t subject to a single point of failure.
    4. once you can fly the thing at all, it’s arguably easier to land a Harrier vertically on a carrier than it is any plane that basically only gets one go at hitting the runway/arrester wire on the way in – you can hover over your spot until you’re ready to drop. This is a massive oversimplification of flying what is widely held to be one of the hardest-to-handle aircraft ever built, but it’s a factor.

  8. sonofrojblake says

    (addendum – as previously stated, all of those benefits of a ski-jump/STO/VL aircraft system are predicated on the aircraft performance meeting minimum standards of availability (we had aircraft carriers for a couple of years before we had ANY aircraft to put on them) and performance. The Harrier met those standards. So far the F-35 doesn’t really look like it does.)

    An additional point – what is a carrier for? Answer: global force projection. Is the UK really going to do that any more? We were just about able to do it in 1982, before I was even in my teens. All that’s happened since is “rationalisation” (i.e. cuts) to the armed forces. The infantry regiment I was a reserve in is gone, for example, folded into another that’s since been folded into yet another. It’s the same all across.

  9. moarscienceplz says

    I don’t get the physics of the ski jump. ISTM that you are trading precious air speed for a few meters of altitude, which you can get later using the plane’s engines. Why is that a good trade? Is the carrier’s deck so low that flying into a big wave is a potential problem?

  10. Rob Grigjanis says

    moarscienceplz @11: Aerodynamics is a nightmare, but a couple of points: You’re not really losing much velocity with a well-designed ski jump; you’re converting some of the horizontal momentum to vertical momentum. And the angle of the ski jump can increase the lift coefficient appreciably.

  11. Reginald Selkirk says

    @9 launch mode vs. carrying capacity:

    Some obvious ( and stupid) solutions come to my mind.

    1) They already have in-flight refueling, how about in-flight re-arming?
    2) Catapults take up a lot of space because they are horizontal. How about a spring-loaded bouncing platform to toss the planes upward, where they will engage their engines at apogee? Yes, I am suggesting a giant pogo stick.

  12. says

    If I recall correctly, they sail into the wind at flank speed, to give another 20mph or so of wind speed. But wouldn’t the ski jump create a dead spot/turbulence right where you don’t want it?

    I remember when there was a CVN Nimitz-class parked off San Diego and a friend of mine and I rented a little Hobie cat and went for a sail. The carrier was like a distant mountain range – you sail and sail and it doesn’t get much bigger. “Awesome” is a good start on describing it.

  13. Rob Grigjanis says

    I suspect that the chosen angle for the ski jump is, at least partially, a compromise between lift coefficient and turbulence. But I’m not going to research it more deeply.

  14. moarscienceplz says

    @Rob #12
    OK, I think I sorta get it. The ski jump has the effect of changing the angle of attack of the wings, which is similar to dropping the flaps. This does increase drag, but it also increases lift, which is desparately needed for a short take-off of a very heavy plane. And since the angles are pre-engineered, pilot imperfections in using flaps is eliminated. Also, maybe flaps can’t change angle that quickly, but if they can, a bit of software should be able to replace the ramp, I would think.

  15. astringer says

    Figure 13 in link Rob Grigjanis@15 gives most of the story: there is little headwind behind the ramp (i.e., air is dragged along with the ship) allowing max acceleration for given thrust (when your wheels are still on the deck, it’s nice NOT to have a head wind). Then at the very lip of the ramp, air speed relative to ship exceeds ship speed and is upward. Lots of lift at just the right time. Then it’s rather case of throwing a javlin: you want “along-a-lot” to get flow over wings, but “up-a-bit” to stay in the air a bit longer at these slower speeds. Then viff as aircraft gets to to “staying-in-the-air speed”. There will be an optimum ramp length and shape, which I hope is found not merely trial and error…

    Seems to work when you take the ear-plugs off the intakes.

  16. jrkrideau says

    Canada has been in the market for new planes to replace the F-18s since before WWI—well a slight exaggeration.

    The Boeing Super Hornet just got dropped from the competition leaving the F-35 and Saab’s Gripen.
    This video looks like a Gripen marketer’s dream.

  17. dangerousbeans says

    That’s an impressively expensive mistake!
    And that’s a major problem for the f35s, too expensive to use

  18. sonofrojblake says

    @moarscienceplz, 11: you aren’t really trading airspeed as RG said. It doesn’t take much to make a big difference compared to simply firing off the front and potentially starting to vertically drop IMMEDIATELY. Plus you can launch closer to flight trim, rather than (as you would have to off a flat deck) having to pull the stick back to climb which causes turbulence and drag you really don’t want. Like RG said – aerodynamics is complicated enough to begin with – add in vectored thrust and it goes completely out to lunch.

    @13 – jokes, obviously but:
    1. Fuck. That. Trying to mount a missile onto its hardpoint IN FLIGHT??? I’ve a couple of ex-RAF mates who’d tell you how awkward it is to do it on the ground, let alone on a ship, let alone in the air. Non-starter.
    2. The acceleration needed to get it to a point where it wouldn’t simply drop straight back down would most likely killed the pilot. The Columbiad problem, you could call it, since we haven’t invented Trek-style inertial damping fields. Also, if the engine coughs even slightly you smash your plane into your deck, kill your pilot and probably sink the boat. No thanks.

  19. Reginald Selkirk says

    Compare to home run statistics. All of you who are baseball fans (no one? really? anyway…) will notice that they now spend a whole lot of time during broadcasts discussing the distance of home runs. If you look into it a little, you will find that they are not actually measuring the distance, they are calculating it based on two quantities: “exit velocity” of the ball off the bat, and “launch angle.”
    This is a fairly straightforward calculation: the ball has an initial velocity going up (balls hit level or down do not become home runs) and there is a constant force of gravity pulling it down. Maybe they put in a term for air resistance, I don’t know. Probably they ignore the wind. But anyway, you can see that a ball hit upward will go further, and stay aloft longer, than a ball hit straight level. Balls hit at too steep an angle won’t go as far, with the limit that a ball hit straight up will fall back to the place it was hit. The point is: there is an optimal angle.

    The analogy to an aircraft taking off is actually not terribly close – the baseball starts at maximum velocity and only slows down over time; whereas an aircraft starts at velocity zero and accelerates so that velocity increases over time. The optimum you are looking for is the longest time aloft from the launch, because the aircraft will continue to accelerate during that time, hopefully reaching a velocity at which it can sustain flight.

  20. Rob Grigjanis says

    Reginald Selkirk @23:

    they are calculating it [distance] based on two quantities: “exit velocity” of the ball off the bat, and “launch angle.”

    If they calculate based only on those two quantities, they’ll be way off. At the very least, air resistance should be included. For Barry Bonds’ 2007 record-breaking home run, the distance was 442 ft (if it had been allowed to fall to ground level). If you only use initial velocity and angle, you would get 670 feet*.

    Data from here;

    *From the formula d = v²sin(2θ)/g, where v is initial velocity, θ is launch angle, and g is acceleration due to gravity.

  21. lorn says

    As I understand it the plane failed to gain sufficient speed because someone left a dust cover over one of the intakes. Whooopsies.

    The general rule-of-thumb for ski-jump carriers is that planes give up about 1/3rd of their load, usually in fuel (loiter/range) or ordinance, coming off a ramp instead of a catapult. Fuel, assuming you have an aerial refueling capability, can be added after launch but ordinance … not so much.

    Most carrier designs seem to include some arresting gear. No arresting gear greatly limits the conditions of retrieval. Planes may need to drop all ordinance, recovery of damaged aircraft becomes much more problematic, and certain sea states and the possibility that the carries can’t make full speed into the wind become huge issues. Without arresting gear planes can’t come in full-throttle and shut down when caught. They have to come in slower and reverse thrust and/or ride the brake to stop. Which means an overshoot or any minor failure is usually unrecoverable. Coming in hot means having the speed to go back up and try again.

    Worse still is a vertical-only carrier. Hovering to land is tough. You have to have fuel reserves and the flight controls and engine have to be functioning at near-peak efficiency. In Vietnam planes regularly came in shot all to hell and were landed with arresting gear successfully. In one case during the Falklands war a Harrier had one of the small sheet-metal nozzles dented and, lacking other options because he couldn’t maintain stability in a vertical landing, had to set down in the sea. A multi-million dollar plane lost because of a tiny amount of damage.

    IMHO the Nimitz-class carriers are an ideal. An evolutionary pinnacle pounded out over a century of operational experience, real-world combat and huge amounts of blood, sweat and tears. The new Ford-class are still a relative unknown. Ski-jump carriers are IMHO a poor compromise. Catapults and arresting wires make sense because although they place substantial burdens on ship design, those systems are heavy, bulky, complicated, and power hungry, they also make so many other things easier.

  22. Rob Grigjanis says

    lorn @25:

    In one case during the Falklands war a Harrier had one of the small sheet-metal nozzles dented and, lacking other options because he couldn’t maintain stability in a vertical landing, had to set down in the sea.

    Do you have a reference for that (date, pilot, etc)? It doesn’t match what I’ve read about any of the ten Harriers (GR.3 or Sea Harrier) lost during the conflict, including one which slid off the deck before take-off.

  23. lorn says

    Rob Grigjanis @ 26: “Do you have a reference for that”

    That story came from a conversation I had with a Brit at a local bar around 1984. Both of us had naval backgrounds. He, as I understand it, was a British sailor. He may have been in the Falklands conflict. I was a US navy brat who used to work for a civilian contractor in Norfolk Va. Both of us were in a college town working on our degrees adjourned to the local watering hole.

    We got talking about how the US and Britain fought differently. We concluded that he US, flush with resources, tended to be hidebound and often wasteful. Often making up in numbers and resources what it lacked in skill and finesse. Grenada being a recent example. The Brits were much pluckier and innovative. I cited the Harrier as an example. He pointed out that the Harrier demonstrated in the Falklands that it had advantages, vector-in-flight being a curve-ball many can’t so easily hit, but it definitely had limitations. I knew about the limited range and weapons load. He mentioned that the Harrier could be delicate and that even minor damage to certain systems could make any recovery impossible if there wasn’t a strip to land on.

    He said he was personally aware of a case where minor damage to one of the nozzles caused the pilot to have land the plane in “the water”. I had, up to a day ago assumed this was in the Falklands, during the war with the air frame sinking into the sea. But thinking back I don’t remember him saying so. As far as I know it could have been in Britain, the damage being from a golf-ball and the water being a trap next to the seventh hole. A happier event all round.

    To my mind it seems likely that a Harrier was forced to land due to malfunction of a nozzle used to direct airflow from the engine. When, where, and why the nozzle failed is less clear. Come to think of it I vaguely remember a mention of US Marine Corp Harriers having nozzle and flight control issues.

    VTOL aircraft using vectored thrusts would seem to be inherently more vulnerable to damage and equipment failure. Balancing a multi-ton object on a column of exhaust gas and thrust reaction seems to be an incredibly delicate operation. Doing it in an air frame with random bullet holes in it would seem to increases the pucker factor considerably.

    IMHO the demand that the F-35 have a VTOL capable B version was the final straw; breaking the program and compromising all other versions.

  24. Rob Grigjanis says

    ahcua @29:

    they do seem to be inherently more vulnerable

    You get that from looking at a list for a single family of planes? It would be more instructive to compare to similar lists for other planes with similar roles (mostly ground attack), like the A-4 Skyhawk. Such planes often fly at low altitudes, so are more prone to bird strike. But maybe birds found the Harriers more aesthetically appealing?

  25. says

    Rob Grigjanis:
    VTOL aircraft using vectored thrusts would seem to be inherently more vulnerable to damage and equipment failure.

    It could be that the VTOLs that are out there are single-engined? The idea of hovering on a single point of failure has never seemed particularly appealing to me.

  26. says

    Rob G@30: “You get that from looking at a list for a single family of planes?

    C’mon, my comment was not intended as a detailed or rigorous analysis. I was just struck by what felt like a large number of bird strikes (and then tied it into loch’s comment). Geez.

    But here. Here’s the List of F-15 losses:

    There’s one birdstrike, compared to the 16 for the Harrier. I leave it as an exercise for the reader to do the detailed data collection to determine how those correlate with takeoff and landings, and flight times, and then do the statistical analysis.

    Knock yourself out.

  27. Rob Grigjanis says

    ahcuah @34: The F15 is a tactical fighter, not a ground attack plane. And you don’t need a detailed bloody analysis. A couple minutes googling is far better than off-the-cuff speculation based on nothing more than “oh, that looks like a lot of bird strikes” after looking at a list for a single type of plane.

    Here’s an article about bird strike military accidents;

    I leave it as an exercise for the reader to look at the tables in the Appendix. You’ll see a lot of ground attack aircraft and jet trainers in them, including Harriers, Jaguars, A-4s, etc.

  28. says

    Well, sorry. I was unaware that off-the-cuff comments noting a lot of bird strikes were required here to be backed up by extensive research.

    In fact, what you could have said, right from the get-go, was that Harriers do a lot of ground operations and are thus around a lot of birds. But that wouldn’t let you display your smarm.

    BTW, from your link: “The largest number of accidents was during high-speed low-level flight”. That does not appear to be the case with the Harriers (though they were low-level).

  29. Rob Grigjanis says

    You didn’t just note a lot of bird strikes. You wrote “they do seem to be inherently more vulnerable. Scanning through the list, bird ingestion (or should that be “indigestion”?) crops up way too often.”

    If you don’t want a comment to be taken seriously, why write it?

    BTW, I like most of your comments, but idle speculation bugs me no end. If you don’t like the criticism, feel free to ignore it.

  30. says

    You know what? They spend a lot of time near the ground where birds are and have this huge sucking thing that has to operate continuously so as not to crash. That sure seems more inherently vulnerable than other jets that DON’T spend a lot of time near the ground where birds are and have this huge sucking thing that has to operate continuously. You’re the one putting assumed limits (or shall I call it “idle speculation”) on my comparison.

    You really don’t need to comment on things that bug you no end.

  31. sonofrojblake says

    The idea of hovering on a single point of failure has never seemed particularly appealing to me.

    I think the average person pretty much takes hovering for granted. I mean – Harriers have been able to do it since the sixties, helicopters have done it forever, what’s the big deal? And yet there are parts – HUNDREDS of them – in every Harrier and AFAIK basically every helicopter (even the multi-engine ones) that if that part fails, you’re in a rapidly spinning housebrick dozens or hundreds of feet up.

    What this tells me is that in a cost/benefit analysis, the benefit of VTOL must be huge.

  32. says

    Harriers have been able to do it since the sixties, helicopters have done it forever, what’s the big deal?

    A lot of people seem to assume that “it must be safe or nobody’d do it.” Also, from talking with other passengers in a helicopter, during the course of a helicopter ride, it turns out that I was the only one who knew what “autorotation” was (except, hopefully, the pilot!) helicopters have a better failure mode than a VTOL jet but ejection seats are pretty dramatic…

  33. sonofrojblake says

    helicopters have a better failure mode than a VTOL jet

    Assuming the failure is something that “only” makes the engine stop, rather than interfering with the pilot’s ability to interact with the fearsomely complicated set of rods and levers that make the wings flap, then a helicopter arguably has a better failure mode than ANY fixed wing aircraft. I went for a play in a helicopter once (more time and money on my hands than I needed), and the instructor told me a few things that stuck with me:
    1. everyone with a heli licence has practiced landing with the engine off. It’s a requirement, apparently.
    2. it’s much, MUCH harder in the sorts of helis you learn in (typically Robinson R22s) because they have small, light rotors that don’t hold their momentum well when the power cuts out – bigger, heavy helis give you more room for error. Fail to slam the collective down in the first second or less after the engine stops in an R22 and the blades slow down so much you’ll never get them back.
    3. the instructor said, given a choice, if she HAD to be in an aircraft that suffered engine failure, she’d rather it was a heli. When my eyebrows went up, she explained: in, say, a Cessna with no engine, your best case scenario when away from home is hitting a field you’ve never seen before at about 60-70mph. By contrast, she said, if we lost the engine in a heli she could put it down in a tennis court without spilling my drink.

    Of course, if you lose any of the things connecting the sticks to the flappy bits, you’re fucked no matter how healthy the engine is. The main thing I took away from my heli lesson is that while a fixed-wing plane wants to fly, indeed will fly unattended for a little bit before it starts to wander off, a heli wants to kill you, and if you let your attention wander even for a second, it absolutely will. Some do come with fancy pilot aids, but without those, the thing will flip over and screw you into the ground in less than a second. I’ve not tried to fly one since, it entirely put me off the whole thing.

    The Harrier is all the worst bits of a helicopter, combined with many of the worst bits of a fixed wing plane, along with a whole list of horrible bits of its own. Like I said – the benefits it offers must be MASSIVE.

  34. Ice Swimmer says

    Finland just chose F-35 as the new fighter to replace our aging Hornets. I’m sincerely hoping you are completely wrong about the crappiness of F-35 (and that Americans have managed to make it work on U.S. taxpayers’ dime), but I’m afraid we might get some costly problems. The manufacturers were asked to submit bids on a system of fighters, weapons systems and sensors with the total cost not exceeding 10 billion euros. Finland is to receive 64 planes.

    Front fuselage manufacturing for the F-35s is going to be carried out here. I’m hoping we can use better glue than the one used by Americans…

  35. says

    Ice Swimmer@#44:
    Finland just chose F-35 as the new fighter to replace our aging Hornets

    I saw that.

    I don’t get it. If you all get re-invaded by the Russians, F-35s won’t cut it because they can’t fly enough sorties fast enough and reliably enough to make a difference. And, if you don’t get re-invaded by the Russians, why bother having 5th generation aircraft? F-18s are perfectly good planes for flying around and scaring other people in the vicinity. It’s not as if Finland has a need to project power down in the horn of Africa or anything. Although, I suppose you’re about to become prime real estate for farming, soon.

    Front fuselage manufacturing for the F-35s is going to be carried out here. I’m hoping we can use better glue than the one used by Americans

    That is the true brilliance of the F-35 multinational boondoggle. It’s designed so that the local governments can use it to deal themselves helpings of pork, American-style. So, you’re going to wind up with a congressional republic run by defense contractors who buy politicians that vote for new weapons systems, ad infinitum.

    Meanwhile, what’s fascinating to me is that, in principle, a lot of F-35 stuff is supposed to be top secret. Remember how the US was shrieking like a banshee with a buttplug about how the Chinese were stealing F-35 secrets? That’s because basically every defense manufacturer from every nation that as a piece of the F-35 program has access to the F-35 CAD and design stack. That has to include all the super stealthy stuff, etc. So you’ll have a bunch of secrets that you have to keep, while still making components for the aircraft. As far as I can tell, the only people we haven’t offered F-35 tech to is the Chinese, but that’s probably because they already got it from Turkey.

  36. Ice Swimmer says

    Marcus Ranum @ 45

    The front fuselages will be assembled in Halli in Central Finland. The politicians in Central Finland, especially the ones that are members of Centre Party (which is originally a farmers’ party, but now is there to funnel farm and business subsidies to their rural and small-town constituents) are already masters of pork barrel spending, one of them (Mauri Pekkarinen) being eponymous to the Finnish word (pekkarointi) for the phenomenon.

  37. sonofrojblake says

    @mjr, 43: well, what’s the failure mode of a glider? Since there’s no engine to fail, failure modes generally come down to:
    1. control linkage failure – the stick no longer controls the surfaces. Much, MUCH worse than an engine failure, as the likely result is an uncontrollable roll, yaw or pitch leading to a stall or spin. Ugly. Best case scenario you glide into the ground at some point of the aircraft’s choosing, at a speed and angle of its choosing. Unlikely to be survivable.
    2. actual structural failure of the aircraft, induced by extreme aerobatics or the aforementioned loss of control authority. Again, best case scenario when the wing/tail/front fell off* is that you manage to bail out and parachute to the ground… having never practiced parachuting. All glider pilots wear chutes, but hardly any of the ones I know have ever thrown one even in practice. I paraglided a LOT for over a decade but the only time I ever saw my reserve was when I repacked it. Never threw it, even as a practice.

    So, yeah – helis have a much preferable failure mode than gliders, I’d say.

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