‘I did fly with a Naval Aviator who had once taken off in the venerable A-7E with the wings folded. And remarkably, he made it back to land safely. No harm. No foul.’ David Tussey, US Navy A-7E Corsair II pilot.
A feature designed to save space, the folding wing is typical of carrier-based aircraft that operate from the limited deck space of aircraft carriers. The folding allows the aircraft to occupy less space in a confined hangar because the folded wing normally rises over the fuselage decreasing the floor area of the aircraft. Vertical clearance is also limited in aircraft carrier hangar decks. In order to accommodate for this, some aircraft such as the Supermarine Seafire and Fairey Gannet have additional hinges to fold the wingtips downward, while others such as the S-3 Viking have folding tails. The F-14 Tomcat’s variable-sweep wings could be “overswept” to occupy less space.
Can an aircraft fly with its wings folded?
‘I did fly with a Naval Aviator who had once taken off in the venerable A-7E with the wings folded. And remarkably, he made it back to land safely. No harm. No foul. But it was quite the story in the A-7 Community.
‘The squadron involved was performing night carrier landing practice out of NAS Lemoore, CA. They were “hotseating” pilots, meaning, while the aircraft was still running (often while it was refueling), they would have one pilot get out, and another get it, and right back off you would go. So, you can see that this hectic pace of get in the airplane and get out there flying could create an opportunity for things to go wrong.
‘In this case, the A-7 was lightly loaded (for the carrier landing practice), it was night, and the pilot did a “hot seat” while the aircraft was in the fuel pits refueling. There was no “final checker” so the pilot taxied out after refueling, and headed for the runway to takeoff. He did not notice that the wings were folded.
‘He did take off, realized the extreme position he was in, declared an emergency, and was able (somehow) to muscle the airplane around the pattern and land safely. Jesus H. C****t.’
‘The guy was a terrific pilot with Vietnam experience, and the incident didn’t hurt his career as there was no damage…just a violation of NATOPS. But boy did he earn a reputation in the community, and a lot of laughter.’
Photo credit: U.S. Navy