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Thread: The plane that shot itself down

  1. #1
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    The plane that shot itself down

    “Then there was that time a jet aircraft shot itself down . . . .”

    No, that’s not the beginning of a sea story, a “no sh!t” story, or a tall tale. At least once . . . it actually happened.


    And the pilot – though injured in the resulting crash-landing – lived to tell about it. He also later flew again.

    . . .


    The time frame: mid-1950s. Supersonic flight wasn’t new, but aircraft actually capable of same were still fairly uncommon. Manufacturers were still gaining experience in dealing with supersonic flight issues.


    Enter the Grumman F11F/F-11 Tiger.







    The Grumman F11F Tiger was developed under the Navy’s pre-1962 numbering scheme; it was re-designated the F-11 under the 1962 Tri-Service numbering scheme. It was the Navy’s second supersonic jet aircraft (the F4D Skyray was the first); and it was fairly successful. A total of 200 were ordered by the Navy, and it was flown by the Blue Angels from 1957 to 1969.


    It also was armed with 20mm cannon. And that – coupled with the fact that it was also Grumman’s first supersonic aircraft and the company was still learning about supersonic flight peculiarities – led to the aircraft gaining a unique place in US military aviation history.


    How so? On 21 September 1956, a Grumman F11F Tiger became the first jet aircraft to shoot itself down.


    . . .


    Here’s what happened. On that date, Grumman test pilot Tom Attridge was flying a Grumman F11F Tiger – BuNo 138260 – off Long Island. He put the plane into a dive, and fired a 4-second burst (some sources say he fired two bursts) from the aircraft’s 20mm cannon.


    He was at approximately 22,000 feet altitude when he fired. He then continued his dive; some sources say that he increased his dive angle and accelerated as well.


    At an altitude of about 7,000 feet, Mr. Attridge got a rather nasty surprise. His windshield caved in, and his engine started losing power.


    Attridge thought he’d struck a bird, and tried to nurse his damaged aircraft back to Grumman’s Long Island airfield. Unfortunately his engine soon quit altogether. Since the F11F was a single engine aircraft, this was truly “bad news”.


    Attridge crash-landed the aircraft. He survived, but was injured and unable to fly for some time. However, he did eventually recover and return to flight status. (The aircraft did not; it was a total loss.)

    . . .


    What had happened? Well, as Attridge dove his aircraft was under power; some sources say he used his afterburners and increased his dive angle during the dive. His aircraft thus almost certainly picked up speed while in the dive.


    However, his 20mm cannon rounds didn’t; due to air resistance, their speed continually decreased. And since they were fired at around 22,000 feet altitude and at an oblque angle, they had a rather long time of flight.


    Bottom line: at some point after his firing run, the aircraft’s speed matched – then exceeded – the speed of the rounds he’d fired. And when that happens, it becomes possible for the two trajectories to intersect.


    On 21 September 1956, those trajectories intersected at approximately 7,000 feet altitude off the coast of Long Island. Post-crash investigation showed that Attridge’s aircraft was hit by three of his own previously-fired 20mm rounds. One of those rounds was recovered from his engine and was determined to be the cause of its failure.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Big Dummy View Post
    “Then there was that time a jet aircraft shot itself down . . . .”

    No, that’s not the beginning of a sea story, a “no sh!t” story, or a tall tale. At least once . . . it actually happened.


    And the pilot – though injured in the resulting crash-landing – lived to tell about it. He also later flew again.

    . . .


    The time frame: mid-1950s. Supersonic flight wasn’t new, but aircraft actually capable of same were still fairly uncommon. Manufacturers were still gaining experience in dealing with supersonic flight issues.


    Enter the Grumman F11F/F-11 Tiger.







    The Grumman F11F Tiger was developed under the Navy’s pre-1962 numbering scheme; it was re-designated the F-11 under the 1962 Tri-Service numbering scheme. It was the Navy’s second supersonic jet aircraft (the F4D Skyray was the first); and it was fairly successful. A total of 200 were ordered by the Navy, and it was flown by the Blue Angels from 1957 to 1969.


    It also was armed with 20mm cannon. And that – coupled with the fact that it was also Grumman’s first supersonic aircraft and the company was still learning about supersonic flight peculiarities – led to the aircraft gaining a unique place in US military aviation history.


    How so? On 21 September 1956, a Grumman F11F Tiger became the first jet aircraft to shoot itself down.


    . . .


    Here’s what happened. On that date, Grumman test pilot Tom Attridge was flying a Grumman F11F Tiger – BuNo 138260 – off Long Island. He put the plane into a dive, and fired a 4-second burst (some sources say he fired two bursts) from the aircraft’s 20mm cannon.


    He was at approximately 22,000 feet altitude when he fired. He then continued his dive; some sources say that he increased his dive angle and accelerated as well.


    At an altitude of about 7,000 feet, Mr. Attridge got a rather nasty surprise. His windshield caved in, and his engine started losing power.


    Attridge thought he’d struck a bird, and tried to nurse his damaged aircraft back to Grumman’s Long Island airfield. Unfortunately his engine soon quit altogether. Since the F11F was a single engine aircraft, this was truly “bad news”.


    Attridge crash-landed the aircraft. He survived, but was injured and unable to fly for some time. However, he did eventually recover and return to flight status. (The aircraft did not; it was a total loss.)

    . . .


    What had happened? Well, as Attridge dove his aircraft was under power; some sources say he used his afterburners and increased his dive angle during the dive. His aircraft thus almost certainly picked up speed while in the dive.


    However, his 20mm cannon rounds didn’t; due to air resistance, their speed continually decreased. And since they were fired at around 22,000 feet altitude and at an oblque angle, they had a rather long time of flight.


    Bottom line: at some point after his firing run, the aircraft’s speed matched – then exceeded – the speed of the rounds he’d fired. And when that happens, it becomes possible for the two trajectories to intersect.


    On 21 September 1956, those trajectories intersected at approximately 7,000 feet altitude off the coast of Long Island. Post-crash investigation showed that Attridge’s aircraft was hit by three of his own previously-fired 20mm rounds. One of those rounds was recovered from his engine and was determined to be the cause of its failure.


    So bottom line He was faster than a speeding bullet .
    Montana

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    but could he leap over small women that are lightly bound?
    "The nose, knows"


    #walkaway

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    I remember reading about this before, back in the 1960's. Talk about bad timing and being in the wrong place!!!
    "You can get a lot further with a kind word and a gun
    Then you can get with just a kind word"

    "Al Capone"

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rutabaga View Post
    but could he leap over small women that are lightly bound?
    Or would he just fall INTO them ?
    Montana

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    Your useless info for the day ... the second "F" in "F11F" means it was built by Grumman. E.G., the F4F Wildcat, F6F Hellcat, and F8F Bearcat; ditto the TBF Avenger; but not the TBM Avenger or F4M, which were built by GM. "D" was the designation for Douglas Aircraft (e.g. the SBD dive bomber) and "c" for Curtis (e.g. the SB2C dive bomber).

    The muzzle velocity of aircraft mounted 20 mm cannon was relatively low. For example, the IJN Zero fighter was equipped with both 20 mm cannon and 7.7 mm machine guns. This complicated the work of Zero pilots, because the two types of guns had very different trajectories, and therefore two different aiming points. Between the small bullets and US planes having some armor and self-sealing gas tanks, the 7.7 was not as effective as the .50 caliber machine guns common on US fighters (IIRC, some earlier P-40 models were mixed .30 and .50 caliber).
    Last edited by Traddles; 01-12-2019 at 11:13 AM.
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    I heard the thirty calibers were chosen because some planes didn't have enough space for larger caliber ammo, in significant numbers anyway, Spitfire may be a case of that. The Bf109 had a cannon though, but all the pictures I've seen show them diving and strafing like a machine gun, on B17s, when it would seem like a 20mm would allow them more standoff capabilities but I'm not familiar with how cannons work in air combat anyway.

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    I thought this was going to be about TWA Flight 800.

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    Most of you may not have seen his footage. The americans tried to develop a smaller version of Barnes Wallis's bouncing bomb, which had a disasterous test run, due to them completely ignoring Barnes Wallis calculations on drop height

    Last edited by BabyBoomer+; 01-14-2019 at 03:53 AM.

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