Created By: ccoa on March 31, 2012 Last Edited By: ccoa on April 5, 2012

Aerial Canyon Chase

A high speed air chase through a canyon or Asteroid Thicket

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Per the TRS thread, we're splitting this off of Wronski Feint.

Sometimes, just fighting head to head in the air isn't enough. When a creator really wants to showcase a character's piloting skills, and keep the audience on the edge of their seat, he'll have the character lead the bad guys on a high speed chase through a very narrow area.

As the name might suggest, these usually occur in canyons, although Asteroid Thickets are the go-to replacement for Science Fiction. Modern setting may substitute skyscrapers for the canyon walls, as well.

Expect to see lots of fast pans and quick camera changes, as well as tense music and close calls.

Subtrope of Try and Follow. Often includes instances of a Wronski Feint or Dodge by Braking.



[[folder:Anime & Manga]]
  • A Variation in the Area 88 OAV, where several pilots fly through a canyon to avoid SAM batteries. Many don't make it.
  • Used in the last episode of Grendizer, when General Gandal (Minos) tries to ram his ship into Grendizer in a suicide attack. Duke Freed manages to make him crash into a cliff, since the Spazer (Grendizer's UFO) was still controllable, while Gandal's flagship was a flaming mess.

[[folder:Comic Books]]
  • Dan Dare actually went and subverted this in at least one of its iterations, during the 'All Treens Must Die' storyline. After being released from his imprisonment for genocide as Earth, now with its defences offline, came under a surprise assault from the Mekon's invasion force, in a last, desperate bid to do something, Dan and his crew were bunged into the Anastasia and told to do whatever they could. When one enemy fighter launched a missile on their tail, Dan tried to use the Wronski Feint with a local canyon to escape it. Unfortunately, the missile was just as good, and his attempts to get back out of the canyon were thwarted by fighter wings at a higher altitude keeping them pinned down. With a mountain looming up ahead, Dan tried pulling straight up anyway, noted the missile was still unfazed, and just turned to his crew and apologised. Annie promptly took the missile up the tailpipe.

  • The movie Stealth has the out-of-control robot plane use this trope to dispose of one of the overconfident heroes.
  • Will Smith uses this trope to escape the pursuing space invaders in Independence Day.
  • When a conveniently placed canyon is not available in X-Men 2, Halle Berry's character, Storm, uses her weather manipulating powers to create one from tornadoes, giving the X-Men jet a chance to escape.
  • The film version of The Hunt for Red October has the titular submarine using the cliffs of an undersea canyon system to scrape off a torpedo dropped on them by a "Bear" that was part of the Soviet group tasked to prevent the Red October from making it to the US.
  • Hot Shots!:
  • Star Wars:
    • The Millennium Falcon in the attack on the second Death Star in Return of the Jedi. Complete with Outrun the Fireball for extra Tropey Goodness!
    • Han Solo and the Millennium Falcon do this in The Empire Strikes Back during the famous asteroid chase scene. As Solo was noting, "They'd be crazy to follow us." Unfortunately, Darth Vader is quite a motivator for his troops and they dive in after him.
    • And then again in the prequels, several occasions.
    • The Star Wars Expanded Universe loves this in general. If a book has "X-Wing" in the title (and even occasionally if it doesn't), expect there to be at least one of some sort. X-Wings are actually somewhat slower and less maneuverable than TIE fighters, but there are a few reasons why the canyon trick can work. TIE fighters, with those wings, have greater air resistance, and those pilots who haven't trained in atmosphere often don't compensate for that. And an X-Wing can turn on its side and use its targeting computer to get through a gap only a handful of meters wide, while TIE fighters are almost as wide as they are tall. As Iron Fist showed, a TIE interceptor can pull off a similar maneuver due to it having a narrower profile than a TIE fighter.
    • Though subverted by Solo Command, where the good guys hop through a dangerous asteroid field from large asteroid to large asteroid, and then the enemy battleship targeted the large, stationary asteroids, destroying the good guys due to their use of the feint. Or it would have, except that one pilot remembered that particular enemy had used that counter-tactic before, and managed to get the attack called off just in time.
  • In the original Terminator, Sarah and Reese are driving flat-out in a parking garage with Ah-nult just behind them. Sarah spots the wall but Reese is too distracted to listen to her (with the gunfire and all). Sarah slams her car into park, but Ah-nult doesn't react in time to avoid hitting the wall at top speed. Of course, him being a cyborg, this is just a minor inconvenience.
  • BatmanReturns gets an odd version. Batman heads directly toward a narrow alley far too small to accommodate the Batmobile, then transforms his vehicle until it will fit. The police following him obliviously maintain acceleration right until they crash into the alley.
  • The winged flyers in Transformers: Dark of the Moon were able to outmaneuver the Decepticon patrol ships by flying through damaged buildings. Due to their size, they would be more than capable into fitting in places those ships couldn't.
  • Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. The title character flies his fighter plane along the streets of New York just above ground level while trying to escape Dr. Totenkopf's robot ornithopters.

  • There is an obscure Techno-thriller called Storming Intrepid wherein a pilot does this. He flies down a canyon and through an arch with less than six feet to spare on each side. The opposing pilot pulls up, thinking the first guy crashed, and the first guy simply pulls up behind him and lights him up. Admittedly, it was a laser dogfight. The second pilot later realizes that if he had tried to follow the first guy, he would've crashed anyway, and the first guy must be a sociopath to risk both their lives on an interservice competition. He's right.
  • In the original novel The Hunt for Red October, the canyon used for the dodge noted in the Film section was discussed in greater detail, and mentions that the canyon systems the Soviet subs were using to elude NATO anti-sub operations were extensively mapped by Soviet oceanographers during The '70s for that very purpose.
  • In the second Mortal Engines novel, Predator's Gold, Tom flies an airship at street level through a moving city to lose the pursuit. One of the airships chasing him does crash.

[[folder:Live Action TV]]
  • Subverted in the Firefly episode "The Message". When this trope is attempted by Serenity, the pursuing ship simply flies above the canyon, keeping the ship in view. And when the heroes try to hide, the pursuers flush them out with saturation bombing.

[[folder:Newspaper Comics]]
  • One Garfield comic strip had the titular feline chasing a bird at ground-level, at full speed, only to have the bird pull up sharply (90° angle!) at the base of a tree. Garfield did not dodge.
  • Calvin and Hobbes parodied this. Or explored the origin.

[[folder:Video Games]]
  • Rescue on Fractalus! was originally going to have this be the only way to defeat enemies; George Lucas said that was silly.
  • Not necessarily a chase scene, but pretty much every Ace Combat game requires the player to do this for some reason. Sometimes there are enemy planes or helicopters skulking in the canyons or other narrow passageways or tunnels, just waiting to achieve missile lock.
  • Appears in the cinematic for a secret project in Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri.
  • The canyon level Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge is pretty much this trope.
  • In the original Wing Commander, one of your fellow pilots suggests that asteroid fields are great equalizers when you're outnumbered. Asteroids are great shields, and you only have to concentrate on not hitting them, while your pursuers have to divide their attention between shooting you and not crashing. Sooner or later, they're more likely to screw up than you are. While it actually didn't work out that way in that game, it sometimes does in the later games or the FreeSpace series.

[[folder:Western Animation]]
  • In X-Men Evolution, a more unusual form of this is done to evade missiles and fighter pursuit. Instead of bothering to pull out of the dive, Kitty Pryde phases the entire jet through a mountainside. The missiles crash harmlessly into the rock and the pilots who were in pursuit (not knowing about mutants) swear never to speak of it again.
  • The Futurama episode "A Clone of My Own" features an extended parody of the above scene during the escape from the Near-Death Star.
  • The series TaleSpin did this all the time with Baloo being a master pilot. For instance, in the climax of the first story, Baloo leads a merry aerial chase into the bowels of the city, causing all his pursuers to eventually crash and him crowing "If you can't fly, don't mess with the eagles!"
    • Another episode had Baloo pull up in front of a wall in a cave. Don Karnage hit it, with the statement "What a lousy place for a wall!"
  • In an Episode of Storm Hawks, Aerrow tries this to defeat the Dark Ace. As demonstrated earlier in the episode, the very end of the canyon is so narrow, one must turn their fliers to motorcycle mode to get through, and then back again as to not plummet to the ground. The trick here is that, earlier in the fight, Aerrow had stuck a wrench into the Dark Ace's wing mechanism, preventing him from retracting them.
  • Cheetor tries this with a canyon that has many close pillars in Beast Wars. Even though he manages to shake off the Mooks with this technique, Megatron just plows head-first right through the pillars to no ill effect.

[[folder:Real Life]]
  • This happened in Real Life, as shown in an episode of Dogfights on History Channel, "MiG Alley". USAF F-86 Sabre pilot Robbie Risner and his flight encountered a flight of 4 MiG-15s in MiG Alley and engaged them. Risner shot off the lead MiG honcho's canopy, prompting the Soviet pilot to take dangerously evasive action with a Split-S maneuver at low altitude. The MiG pilot miraculously survives and the chase descends into a dry river bed. The honcho brakes and accelerates but can't shake off the Sabres, which inflict a bit more damage. After rolling over a small mountain, both the MiG pilot and Risner again race through the river bed side by side. The MiG breaks off and leads the chase to his base in China, hoping AA fire will shake the F-86s off his tail. It fails and Risner gets another shot, setting fire to the MiG's wing. The MiG pilot tries to land in desperation, but the Sabres are still after him and shoot him down over the runway. The burning MiG crashes on to a row of parked MiG-15s, destroying them all, to end what was an incredibly awesome real-life chase.
  • Saburo Sakai, one of the most successful Japanese aces of WW II, mentioned in his memoirs that several pilots of Allied P-39 Airacobras attempted to throw off pursuit (by him or his comrades) with this trick during air combats over the mountains of New Guinea, only to kill themselves in crashes.
  • There are accounts of pilots over Paris attempting to lose attackers by flying through the Eiffel Tower. If anyone has definitive documentation of this, please post it.
  • An unarmed Israeli Fouga Magister trainer aircraft got an Egyptian MiG-21 on its tail during the Six Day War in 1967. It flew through a bunch of canyons. The faster MiG couldn't pull out and crashed. The Israeli pilot got credit for the kill despite having no weapons whatsoever.
  • Earlier in that conflict, an Israeli Mirage III chasing a Jordanian Hawker Hunter got gun camera footage of the Hunter crashing instead of his pursuer. The pilot would have been happier had the ejecting Jordanian pilot not smashed into a wall as he ejected (pilots generally prefer their enemies to eject - chivalry, professional courtesy and all that).
  • During the 1971 war between Pakistan and India a Pakistani destroyer was caught in a Macross Missile Massacre Because he had zero effective air defense, he attempted to pull this with his destroyer by hiding among merchant vessels and using the much larger vessels as targets for the incoming missiles. After running out of merchant vessels, he proceeded to do the same thing with dockyard facilities. By the time the Indians were finished shooting at him, the port and all of the merchant vessels are destroyed but the destroyer was still afloat. While it was commented that he should have been court marshaled, the skipper remarked "one has to be alive to be court-martialled."

Community Feedback Replies: 6
  • March 31, 2012
    Aerial Canyon Chase. Because a canyon chase on the ground is nowhere near as interesting.
  • April 1, 2012
    First off, I approve in general, though a closer look at what's currently on Wronski Feint to see what goes in ACC would probably be in order.

    (The edit of the original post in this thread is me adding the one Wing Commander example that fits the asteroid variant of this trope.)

    Also agree with the addition of "Aerial", though perhaps the CC could be a redirect?
  • April 1, 2012
    In the second Mortal Engines novel, Predator's Gold, Tom flies an airship at street level through a moving city to lose the pursuit. One of the airships chasing him does crash.
  • April 2, 2012
    • Sky Captain And The World Of Tomorrow. The title character flies his fighter plane along the streets of New York just above ground level while trying to escape Dr. Totenkopf's robot ornithopters.
  • April 2, 2012
    Checked Wronski Feint, only found one more example.
  • April 4, 2012
    Edited a few of the examples in the OP to make them better suited to this proposed trope, as some of them had the old "multi-purpose Wronski Feint" text, and removed the "subversion" bit from a Real Life entry (the one with the Hawker Hunter), as RL doesn't do subversions of fictional devices.

    (Oh, and bump. :P )