1
$\begingroup$

In an episode of the 1980's television show M*A*S*H, several of the characters are stranded in the wilderness when their vehicle breaks down.

In an attempt to communicate their position to any allies that might be listening, one of the characters says this into their walkie talkie:

Frank Burns: There is a fighter plane approaching. And, um, when I say "Now", the jet will be directly over my head.

[the jet whooshes overhead]

Frank Burns : Now!

The other characters think this is a useless effort:

B.J. : Frank, that thing is a thousand feet up going 500 miles an hour.

Hawkeye : By the time you said 'now', the plane was in its hangar and the pilot was in his jammies.

Was it actually useless? I always thought it was a clever idea.

This is a complete layman's question. I am not a pilot. (But my Dad is, if that helps!)

$\endgroup$

2 Answers 2

4
$\begingroup$

It depends, was he talking directly to the pilot? If so it is reasonable as long as there were some geographical references the pilot could use to fix location and plot on a chart later after landing. Also, some military navigation systems have a "mark" feature, allowing the pilot to hit a button and preserve that location as a lat/long in the system to recover later.

$\endgroup$
1
  • $\begingroup$ He wasn't talking to anyone specifically, just hoping that someone was listening. Possibly no one at all. I did not get the impression that he thought the pilot was listening. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 12, 2023 at 2:56
4
$\begingroup$

If the jet really was doing 500 mph — about 225 meters per second — and it took Burns between five and 10 seconds to transmit “now”, and assuming the pilot heard his transmission, his position could be located within a square kilometer or so, an enormous help to any search party.

If the pilot did not hear the transmission but whoever did knew or could find the jet’s flight path, that would still narrow down the search area considerably.

I never liked M*A*S*H and the show’s treatment of Burns was one of the reasons. The creators of the show clearly wanted to be taken seriously when it came to almost all aspects of military life in a war-zone — but felt it was better to keep Burns as the butt of jokes rather than investigate what could or should be done about a doctor who was (supposedly) inept or an officer who was (again, supposedly) unprepared for command.

$\endgroup$
1
  • $\begingroup$ " and it took Burns between five and 10 seconds to transmit “now”," this is a very questionable assumption, unless aviation radios are really hard to use. I could say one word on a ham radio in a second or two. $\endgroup$
    – Someone
    Commented Feb 15, 2023 at 2:44

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .