Having in mind this famous F-15 incident :

  1. Would this be possible with any other fighter-jet? Or was there something really specific to F-15's design that allowed this ?

  2. Would this be possible at all with any commercial aircraft ? Specifically for those that have their engine(s) mounted on the rear ? or what about for those that have engines mounted on the wings, but only with a partial wing loss (eg having both engines intact) ?

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    $\begingroup$ There is the famous case of a DC-3 that landed with most of the outboard panel of one wing missing -- and the only replacement panel available (in WWII China) was from a DC-2, so it flew for years as a "DC-2 1/2". Needed some aileron trim, but otherwise was reportedly fine. $\endgroup$
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Commented Jul 17, 2019 at 11:08
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    $\begingroup$ the A-10 was designed to fly with a good part of a wing and one of the elevators and vertical stabilisers missing. I don't know if it was ever put to the test, but during Desert Storm some did come back with a lot of holes in them. $\endgroup$
    – jwenting
    Commented Jul 17, 2019 at 11:31
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    $\begingroup$ Call me pedantic, but F-15 has one wing total. It's called monoplane for a reason (as opposed to biplane with two wings). In that incident, F-15 lost about a third of its wing. $\endgroup$
    – Zeus
    Commented Jul 18, 2019 at 5:34
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    $\begingroup$ @jwenting I think Kim Campbell probably brought back the most infamously trashed A-10 to a safe home-base landing - smoking, broken, missing too many parts to count, filled with bullet holes, and yet still limped back to base. $\endgroup$
    – J...
    Commented Jul 18, 2019 at 12:54

2 Answers 2


This would be possible with other fighter jets that are of similar design to the F-15, i.e. have a low aspect ratio, much of their lift produced close to the centerline, and a lot of control authority. They would also need the other two key ingredients for a landing of this kind: a strong aviator at the controls and a bit of luck.

Specific contributing features of the F-15 were its fuselage's lifting design, side-of-fuselage engine placement, blended wing with strakes, and large control surfaces, common to fighters.

If you look at the planform, it wasn't missing a full 50% of its wing, but only about 20% of its lift-contributing planform area (lift distribution isn't equal across it of course), with the body, the intakes and wing root strakes continuing to provide lift. As a result, the center of lift didn't move as far away from center as it would have for a tube-with-wings design.

In principle this is a more violent version of a runaway aileron scenario, and one has to compensate for roll from the lost wing area. The F-15, being a fighter, has large control surfaces for combat maneuvering, and they proved sufficient for stopping the roll in this case. The loss of lift was not so much of an issue.

F-15 planform

The red box is the lost area, the green box the remaining planform, and the dashed line its very approximate center.

It's possible that other fighter aircraft could do something similar. Commercial aircraft, however, almost universally feature high aspect ratios, and with such a wing, the center of lift will move too far away from the design centerline in a similar scenario. Partial wing loss, however, can be compensated for, and there's a lot of incidents where planes landed having lost some part of their wing.

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    $\begingroup$ That's not to say this couldn't be screwed up. Often when a jetliner loses a fraction of its wing lift, it crashes, because the problem "shows up" at lower speeds, i.e. takeoff and approach, when they have too little altitude remaining to learn. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 18, 2019 at 16:28
  • $\begingroup$ In addition, if it didn't have thrust vectoring engines it wouldn't have made it. $\endgroup$
    – Joshua
    Commented Jul 18, 2019 at 17:54
  • $\begingroup$ @Joshua the F-15 doesn't have thrust vectoring engines (except one or two experimental conversions, but those weren't involved here). $\endgroup$
    – jwenting
    Commented Jul 19, 2019 at 3:28

It is definitely possible to lose an entire wing and still control the plane if the plane is capable of knife-edge flight. Check out these videos of it being done-- ending in amazingly successful landings -- with radio-controlled planes. Of course a full scale-plane being flown in this matter would impact the ground with much more energy in relation to the strength of the structure, but these videos suggest it still might be survivable at least with aircraft similar to the ones represented by the radio-controlled models. Of course, not in any commercial airliner, and the odds of success with this particular technique would surely be slim in a heavy military jet as well.

(second video intentionally set to start at 2:18)

Also, beware the well-known hoax video that purports to show something extremely similar with a full-scale airplane with the logo "KillaThrill" emblazoned on the side. It is actually a mix of full-scale and RC footage and no wing was actually lost by any plane in that video.

It's interesting to note that if you want to use an alternative technique involving flight in a near-level bank attitude, then full-span ailerons are a disadvantage and may make it impossible. You want a powerful (wide-chord) aileron near the wingtip generating lots of downward roll torque, leaving the rest of the wing free to make positive lift.

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    $\begingroup$ Videos were found by googling "Landing RC plane one wing"-- many more such videos may exist, I didn't look very long. PS double-posting answer was not intentional, deleted now. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 17, 2019 at 15:49
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    $\begingroup$ @GittingGud That, and very high rudder authority $\endgroup$
    – DeepSpace
    Commented Jul 18, 2019 at 8:08
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    $\begingroup$ Keep in mind, also, that the scaling laws of the universe mean that what works in an RC plane won't necessarily translate to a similar performance in a larger aircraft. $\endgroup$
    – J...
    Commented Jul 18, 2019 at 12:57
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    $\begingroup$ @GittingGud - any RC plane called a "3D" plane can actually hover with nose straight up and zero airspeed, but we aren't seeing that here (not sure why not). It does not look to me like extreme thrust to weight is being employed, otherwise it would hang on prop with virtually no airspeed. As far as extreme rudder authority goes, I'd say no more rudder is being used than is needed for knife-edge flight which any full- scale aerobatic plane is capable of. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 18, 2019 at 13:48
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    $\begingroup$ Also as far as structure and weight and impact loads go, you can lift up typical rc plane just by holding outboard tip (say outboard quarter) of one wing with a/c in level bank attitude, this would probably snap the wing spar of a full-scale plane. Likewise you can drop the rc plane onto the ground in a vertical bank from a half-span above ground and likely do no damage. So, no doubt there are scaling issues trying to duplicate the videos w/ full-sized a/c, but I think they mostly involve the result of a hard landing in an unusual attitude. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 18, 2019 at 14:10

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