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97 votes
Accepted

Why do fighter aircraft manufacturers still focus on making their planes more dogfight-worthy?

That same thinking, "dogfighting is dead", got the USAF and USN in serious trouble in Vietnam. The U.S. Armed Forces were convinced that the next major war would be against the Soviet Union directly, ...
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94 votes

Why don't aircraft use nuclear propulsion?

TL;dr - too heavy :-) It's just not a good energy source for something like an aircraft. Nuclear energy is superb for instances where you need continuous output over a long period of time, for ...
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86 votes

Are the guns on a fighter jet fixed or can they be aimed?

They are fixed, and many attempts were made over the years to have an aiming capability - and all failed. That should tell you something. The earliest aereal combats used indeed handguns which were ...
73 votes

Why don't aircraft use nuclear propulsion?

To a large extent, it wasn't revived because the only realistic use case became obsolete. The USA and USSR were both interested in nuclear-powered long-range bombers. The plan was to have a fleet of ...
72 votes

Locked out of private jet - how do you get in?

It depends on the exact model. Bobby pins or any key that physically fits will get you into some, you'll need real picks for others, and some custom jobs may require a police snap gun or a locksmith's ...
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70 votes

Why is this missile positioned in this odd position? How can it be launched correctly?

You're seeing the Sidewinder on the folded up wingtip of the F-18 that is in the foreground out of frame except for its wing tip and missile sticking up at the bottom. The airplane is between the ...
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69 votes

How do fighter pilots manage food, drink & toilet?

Life Strapped to the Rocket Food and Drink Fighter pilots do not have any problem taking food and drinks on flights. The biggest concern is to prevent foreign object damage (FOD) from items like ...
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54 votes
Accepted

Why do passenger jets accept input that will cause the aircraft to perform dangerous maneuvers it was not designed for?

Generally speaking, pilots don't like it when a computer interprets or limits their actions. They want final control. They don't always get their way on this but that's their preference. If I recall ...
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51 votes

How do aircraft refueling in-air deal with wake turbulence?

Ex US Navy pilot here. I flew the S-3 Viking, which refueled via the probe/drogue method, as opposed to the USAF flying boom method. I can confirm that the receiving plane is below the wake ...
51 votes
Accepted

What are these wavy lines on fighters' canopy?

It is an explosive cord which helps to crack the canopy (pdf!) before the ejection seat has to do this all by itself. When ejection is commanded, the harness is tightened and the canopy is shattered, ...
50 votes
Accepted

What is this jetliner seen in the Falcon Crest TV series?

It is a Grumman Gulfstream II business jet, not an airliner. The oval windows are very unique to both the Grumman Gulfstream I business turboprop, and Grumman Gulfstream II business jet. The small ...
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49 votes
Accepted

Are the guns on a fighter jet fixed or can they be aimed?

The guns of modern fighter jets are fixed to the airframe—they can't be moved in any direction; the pilot has to maneuver the aircraft to bring the guns to bear. The image shows the mounting of ...
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45 votes
Accepted

On the F15-E, can the WSO take over if the pilot is incapacitated?

Short answer, yes. However, it is important to note that the WSO is not a pilot. The WSO is trained to operate the weapons systems, not fly the aircraft, but does have basic flight controls ...
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43 votes
Accepted

Can a fighter jet land on a modified airliner?

Technically yes. But I am unaware of any attempt to do this with airliners. But there were several designs in the past which used a big airplane or a Zeppelin as a mother ship, which took fighters ...
43 votes
Accepted

Can someone/something other than the pilot trigger the ejection seat?

In a word, yes. There is a switch which controls this and the default position is "both". If any handle is pulled (pull down over the face or the one between your legs), then both seats ...
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41 votes
Accepted

What is an afterburner and how long can a jet fly on afterburner?

An afterburner is a secondary combustion system which burns additional fuel downstream of the combustion chamber, to further increase thrust at the expense of much higher fuel consumption. This is ...
  • 22.5k
41 votes
Accepted

Do jet fighters have air conditioning systems?

Yes. Fighter aircraft have air conditioning systems. In general, they are called as Environmental Conditioning Systems (ECS). Their primary functions (as far as cockpit goes) include, Cockpit ...
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40 votes
Accepted

Do fighter jet pilots ever use autopilot?

I'm not in the military, so you could say I'm talking out my rear end here, but based on my experience as a pilot: yes, military pilots use the autopilot all the time. Here's my reasoning, in order ...
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37 votes
Accepted

Why does NASA have F/A-18s?

NASA uses them for pilot training and as chase planes for research aircraft. The two-seat F/A-18 support aircraft are normally used for photo or video chase. They are configured to transmit live ...
  • 23.2k
37 votes

Can a jet stream make a subsonic plane fly at a supersonic speed relative to the ground?

Yes, the ground speed of a subsonic aircraft could be larger than the speed of sound. As an example, during the record time for a subsonic Atlantic crossing a Boeing 747 reached speeds of up to 1327 ...
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34 votes
Accepted

How does a fighter jet perform good and quick maneuvers with such small wings?

Fighter (combat) aircraft are designed to perform quick maneuvers in order to get into a position quickly to engage and shoot down an enemy aircraft or evade incoming threats (like missiles, etc.). ...
  • 99.2k
34 votes

Were propeller airplanes significantly more "scary" to fly in compared to modern jet ones?

Old propeller airliners were much more prone to "bumpy" ride than modern jets, for one major reason: they flew lower. When I was in my early teens (almost fifty years ago), I flew several ...
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33 votes
Accepted

Why don't airplanes have smoking cabins?

Just off the top of my head, It would take up space that could be used for three or four paying passengers. This would result in increased ticket prices for everybody and the non-smoking majority ...
32 votes
Accepted

Can a missile be fired when a fighter jet is inverted?

The combat advantage of fighters (as opposed to heavier-payload bombers) is their maneuverability, therefore a missile delivery restriction such as g-limit (think Sidewinder heat-seeker in a dogfight) ...
31 votes

What are these wavy lines on fighters' canopy?

For completeness, there are also several other mechanisms to make sure the pilot does not "punch through" the canopy, which would likely be fatal. As well as the detonating cord, many canopies unlock ...
  • 30.9k
31 votes

Why do many fighter jets have double vertical stabilizers?

There are a few reasons many fighter/bomber designs have 2 vertical stabilizers: one large tail produced more shear force at the root, 2 smaller tails mean less force at the vertical stabilizer root. ...
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31 votes
Accepted

Is it correct that a jet fighter can be used as a non-lethal (sonic) weapon?

Sonic booms from low flying aircraft, while loud, don't seem to cause hearing damage, as this F-14 pilot demonstrates during a Tiger Cruise air wing demonstration. ...
29 votes

How do aircraft refueling in-air deal with wake turbulence?

Former B-52 crewdog here...The receiver aircraft flies below the wake turbulence of the tanker. In the case of the typical USAF method, using the boom, the receiver aircraft flies into a "contact" ...
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29 votes

Why do some fighter jets have two pilots while others have only one?

All fighter aircraft have one pilot, though some have two crew members. The backseat crew member is not a pilot, but often either a Radar Intercept Officer (US Navy), Navigator/Weapon Systems Officer ...
  • 6,217
29 votes

On the F15-E, can the WSO take over if the pilot is incapacitated?

Yes. They can fly the aircraft if required. The F-15E is developed from F-15D , which is used for aircrew training, with the instructing pilot in the rear seat. There is atleast one documented case ...
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