Losses and Aviation Safety

The story behind the famed photo of a MiG-17 having a Tail Strike after completing a Loop during an Airshow (the Aircraft landed with very Minor Damage)

The incredible photo in this post features a MiG-17 fighter aircraft having a tail strike after his pilot completed a loop and misjudged the pull-out.

Taken during a 1990 airshow in Harrison, Arkansas, the incredible photo in this post features a MiG-17 fighter aircraft having a tail strike after his pilot completed a loop and misjudged the pull-out.

According to an interesting post appeared on RC Universe forum, ‘the tail strike occurred during a 1990 airshow in Harrison, Arkansas. Kelly, who was a technician for the FAA and somewhat of a camera buff, was tracking this guy flying a MiG-17 with his camera.

‘The pilot had just completed a loop and misjudged his pull-out. Everyone considering themselves as potential victims, took-off running in all directions. But Kelly had a non-threatening position with strong motivation to take the picture. So just as the MiG scraped the ground, Kelly captured this rare image.

‘Had it been circulated at the time, this clear, once in a lifetime photograph might have earned an award.

‘Oh, by the way, the guy made a wide circle, lowered his landing gear, touched down then taxied in showing very minor damage.’

The Soviet MiG-17 (NATO code-name “Fresco”) was designed to replace the famous MiG-15 of the Korean War. Although similar in appearance to the MiG-15, the MiG-17 had more sharply swept wings, a longer fuselage, an afterburner, and better speed and handling characteristics. The first flight of a MiG-17 prototype took place in January 1950, and production began in late 1951. The first operational MiG-17s appeared in 1952, but they were not available in sufficient quantities to take part in the Korean War. Five versions of the aircraft eventually were produced. The MiG-17 has served in the air arms of at least 20 nations throughout the world — including nations friendly to the United States — and was flown against US aircraft during the Vietnam War.

Photo credit: Kelly A. Angell FAA

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

View Comments

  • As someone that worked at the fbo when this happened, his head was not in the game. He taxied to the edge of the ramp (edge of entrance to taxi way) and set there for about 3 minutes with his jet blast hitting the 100ll truck broadside ,bubbling paint, as we had hatches open refueling the truck. He hit the ground because he took off and went directly into a loop, but as you can see from the photo he forgot to get rid of his takeoff flaps. It was an extremely hot day on top of it.

  • The drag mark was around 180 ft long, at its deepest about 2ft deep and almost 3 feet wide. The local mechanic Ron himelberg later crawled up inside it and hammered the exhaust out as best he could and the pilot flew it home about a week letter on a temp license so he could get it home. Funniest thing was watching all the FAA guys bail out of their little trailer. Never seen an FAA guy move so fast in my life. Lol

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