Cutting a pilot out of an F-22 Raptor?

Just heading out, but this just came in: Langley Air Force Base Briefing: F-22 03-041 Stuck Canopy at the AR-15 forums. Here’s a pic:


There are more pics at the forum. Murdoc’s got no time to look, so your mission is to determine if this is freaking real by the time I look again this evening.


  1. Appears legit. Perhaps they should add a small hole with a plate over it in the metal, through which they could pass some tools to the pilot. Or, a manual crank on a long rod, if he couldn’t reach where he needed to. Or maybe it happens so rarely, it’s cheaper to just cut through a very expensive canopy when it does. For some reason, this reminds me of a few bottom gunners in WWII bombers (B-29?) who were ground up when the planes had to belly land due to faulty land gear. Terrible thing.

  2. ACE, I always wondered about that. Why was it that there was never a ‘bail’ option for the bottom ball turret gunner? Even with no chute, wouldn’t bailing over water or something be better than the landing? I remember my history teacher in high school (flew the lightning and t-bolt in WWII) describing this. Always wondered why some deperate alternative wasn’t used, can’t remember if I ever asked.

  3. I believe you’re thinking of the B-17. The B-29’s turrets were remotely operated from the pressurized crew compartment, were they not? (Except for, I think, the tail gunner). The B-17 had the manned ball turret and I think sometimes due to damage the crew member could not get out of there. Otherwise you’d think they’d get into the fuselage for the landing. They must be jammed in due to a stuck door or something.

  4. You’re right, Nicholas. It was a B-17. Link to page which mentions it: From what I just read, the ball turret gunner could turn it in such a way that the door opened into the plane, but in this case perhaps the hydraulics were’n’t working so he could so turn it.

  5. There are more pictures here. The primary system failed as well as the backup. They had to cut him out with a chain saw. It’s a good thing he didn’t have to eject.

  6. Thank God for SawzAll eh? (maybe they should put one on the pilot’s survival vest) Sorry but the expression on that pilot’s face makes me giggle. So tell me when an F22 pilot ejects, does the canopy pop off first, or does the ejection seat go plumb through it? Do they still say, ‘Meet your Maker in a Martin Baker’?

  7. What? No one mentions we’ll be paying $182K to replace the canopy? We didn’t get the extended warranty? Bring me the head of the Contracting Officer!

  8. Not so, Dfens. I have it on good authority that the panel toggles only cost $150K per each.

  9. My understanding of ejection seats and canopies is that the canopy is actually blown off with small explosives. On the B-17, the ball turret gunner had a hatch in the back of the turret to move between the fuselage and the turret. This hatch could only be opened form the outside-in any case, there was no way for the gunner to reach any handles from inside, because the turret was so cramped. Standard procedure was to enter the turret after the plane had taken off and exit the turret before landing (in case of landing gear failure). Sometimes, however, due to battle damage, the turret could not be rotated to a point where the hatch could be opened, and the gunner had to ride it down. If the landing gear was also out, the landing woul

  10. I couldn’t get confirmation on the explosives. I know some canopies have detonating cords embedded in them that go off before the seat goes through them. I hope you’re right about the F-22 canopy having something explosive holding it, because I’d hate to think they’re relying on that mechanism.

  11. Fighter canopies are blown off explosively in the event of an ejection just before the seat is ejected, along with the pilot :). They are not relying on the hydraulic locking mechanism to do anything. I’m guessing here, but I would imagine there’s a way to blow off the canopy without ejecting the pilot, to be used in case of on-ground emergency. But its probably a whole lot safer for both man and machine to merely cut the canopy open. My guess is that if the plane was on fire or something they could have gotten him out of there much, much faster. The exception is VSTOL aircraft (Harrier, F-35, Yak-38) where the canopy is shattered by an explosive charge (similar to detonating cord, but I think its technically something different) that is attached to the canopy ceiling. The reason it is done this way is because a VSTOL aircraft may not be moving fast enough to get out from under the canopy before the seat ejects. Worst case in a VSTOL would be if it was in a hover then the pilot would be ejected right up into the canopy (similar to what happened to Goose in Top Gun, where the plane was not moving fast enough forward and he was blown right up into the canopy — a very unlikely accident in a non-VSTOL aircraft).

  12. Odd Note: The ‘ball turret’ gunner was the safest (most survivable) position in the crew. The gunner was curled up into a very small arget and he was surrounded (mostly) by 1/4 ‘ armor plate. Most casualties were not from the plane crashing but from getting hit personally by shrapnel or direct (small arms) fire. figure it this way: It is MUCH cheaper to cut the canopy than to just pull the ejection sequence. the ejection sequence does tremedous damage to the aircraft. After all, at that point, they are NOT expecting to get it back. ALSO, you must consider that even a 0/0 ejection has a statistiacl probability of a fatatity. I don’t know what that is but it is high enough to not want to pull that lever if there is ANY alternative.