A Wronski Feint is a maneuver where a pursued character feints at an obstacle in order to get their pursuer to follow. They pull up at the very last second, and the split second of confusion, or their enemy's inferior piloting skills, causes the enemy to crash into the obstacle.
This trope allows the work to show off what a skilled pilot the hero is - he can take out the enemy with only his piloting skills. It also shows the audience his level of fearlessness and ability to keep cool under pressure.
Note that while the obstacle is usually
a cliff, the ground, or a similar immobile object, it's not unheard of to pull this off with missiles, other vehicles, or other mobile targets.
after the Quidditch
technique where one team's Seeker will pretend to see the Snitch near the ground and go into a dive to attempt to lure the opposing Seeker into crashing into the ground. The Wronski Feint is first mentioned in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
, and again in Quidditch Through the Ages
by Kennilworthy Whisp
, wherein it was revealed to have been named after famed Polish Seeker Josef Wronski.
Sometimes peppers and ends a longer Try And Follow
sequence or Aerial Canyon Chase
Subtrope of Try And Follow
. Compare Dodge by Braking
, Deadly Dodging
. A Game of Chicken
can cause one or both participants to fall victim to this.
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Anime & Manga
- In The Desert Peach, Rosen does this to a pursuing British pilot. Rosen's in a Stuka—-a dive bomber that's made to deal with the G-forces and stresses of pulling up out of a very steep dive—-and the British pursuer isn't. Truth in Television; see Real Life below.
- In the "Wrecking Havoc" story in The Transformers, a human fighter pilot actually manages to pull this off on Cyclonus.
- This is essentially done a few times in Sin City in which a character lures one or more cop cars into Old Town where cops are not allowed. This ends with the cops turning and leaving... usually. The cop cars unfortunate enough to land in the neighborhood get blasted apart.
- As mentioned above, it was demonstrated quite effectively in the Quidditch World Cup by Viktor Krum in the book Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. And several Harry Potter Fanfics have Harry himself performing it, as in the book he thought after seeing it that he couldn't wait to try it. Unfortunately, later events (the Quidditch cup being called off due to The Triwizard Tournament in his fourth year, getting banned from Quidditch by Umbridge in his fifth year, getting weekly detentions for the end of the season in his sixth year, and skipping his seventh year) conspire to prevent him from ever trying it.
- He does perform a similar move in the third book, where he fakes seeing the snitch to cause Cho to fly in the wrong direction (it lacks the large solid object to truly be considered this trope). His tactic against the dragon in Goblet of Fire was similar as well.
- Skandranon, the hero of the Mercedes Lackey & Larry Dixon novel The Black Gryphon does this in the first chapter of the book, when he's being pursued by enemy fliers. It's subverted by the fact that he promptly runs straight into a tree himself shortly thereafter. Of course, it was a tree on his team's side of the warzone, which is what he was really worrying about.
- In the X-Wing Series, Corran Horn uses this trope. A wing of Y-Wing bombers can't get close enough to a Lancer-class frigate to get a missile lock without getting blown away. So Corran, in his much more agile X-wing, tells the bombers to have the proton torpedoes lock on to him, with the express intent of using a Wronski Feint to deliver the ordnance to target. It works.
- Corran ends up on the wrong side of this during The Bacta War, when Imperial pilot Erisi Dlarit dodges his last pair of missiles by forcing them to crash into a moon. Unfortunately for her, the second impact (against a ridge she is sheltering behind) kicks up a colossal dust cloud that prevents her from seeing him bearing down on her position.
- Wedge pulls off a variation in Solo Command against a frail, but agile TIE Raptor. The Raptor is adept at dodging his attacks, and with the high winds he finds he can't get an accurate shot off. The two find themselves flying at high speed over the ocean, with Wedge still unable to bring his weapons to bear. So he fires directly over the Raptor, causing the pilot to dodge out of reflex — straight into the water.
- Yet another variant comes to us courtesy of General Garm bel Iblis. One of his favorite combined-arms tactics uses a squad of X-Wings and A-Wings to bypass an enemy's fighter defenses. The X-Wings engage the enemy squad, and make a sideways maneuver, trying to lure the enemy fighters into matching it and preventing the X-Wings from passing — which is when the much faster A-Wings, who have been hidden behind the X-Wings the whole time, blow through the now-empty space and on to the objective.
- During Galaxy of Fear Tash once takes a tiny Starfly ship into an Asteroid Thicket and is pursued by a Star Destroyer. Unlike in The Empire Strikes Back, it's not concerned by the asteroids and can shoot the big ones and take the smaller ones on its shields, which makes the entity controlling it more confident in its inevitable victory. But it can't take the two giant space slugs she leads it to and buzzes.
- Done by a capital ship in The Privateer by S.M. Sterling and James Doohan. The light carrier Invincible jumps into a barely explored system that happens to have a pulsar dangerously close to the jump point. Since they're expecting it, they're able to slingshot around the pulsar at high speed and back to the jump point. The enemy flotilla pursuing them is not expecting the pulsar and ends up smearing itself across its surface.
Live Action Television
- Occurs unintentionally in Red vs. Blue Reconstruction. The reds are fleeing from a pair of soldiers in a car chase. Grif races towards a cliff, believing he can make the jump over the river, but changes his mind at the last second and brakes just in time. The soldiers are not so lucky and go flying off the edge. Simmons shoots them with the car's turret as they go down for good measure.
- Tex combines this with teleporters to shake a locked-on rocket.
- Dude Hennick pulls one against a Japanese fighter in Terry and the Pirates when the heroes are escaping from Temple Rock prison, causing the fighter to crash into a lake.
- 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.
- In Star Fox 64 Team Starwolf would tail you unmercifully. You COULD pull an Immelmann Turn and shoot whoever was following you that way - but it's waaay more fun to fly almost right into a pillar, then pull an Immelmann, and have Wolf die an instantaneous death. Cue Evil Laugh.
- However, due to technical limitations this would only work if you had the victim in your sight.
- In Mass Effect 2, during the Suicide Mission, Joker will pull one of these to deal with several Oculus drones engaging the Normandy by flying into the wreckage of thousands of other ships that entered the Omega-4 relay. How it plays out depends on whether or not you bought Tali's shield upgrade. If you did the Normandy makes it through needing a new coat of paint, but otherwise intact. If you didn't however, the Normandy's drive core overloads and vents into the engineering compartment, killing a squadmate, possibly Tali herself.
- Tribes: Ascend allows nimbler classes to escape the Shrike aircraft's attacks this way. Especially common since a lot of pilots will aim to ram the infantry, since its cannon are slow and hard to aim.
- In the intro for Wing Commander Privateer, the player character lures a pirate's missiles around an asteroid, and then sends them back at the firing craft. How he did that in a ship that can't outrun or outturn the missiles is an exercise best left for those who forget the MST3K Mantra.
- In Forza Motorsport this is a popular method to get rid of AI cars tailgating you; if they only start to overtake you right before a turn, they'll go flying through the turn from breaking too late, often slamming into a wall. This also happens frequently in multiplayer when dealing with rammers - if you see someone aiming to smash into you at a tight turn, just go wide at a turn and smash on the brakes, and the rammer will go flying through the turn and smash into the walls of the track.
- In the Grand Theft Auto and Saints Row games, the best way to lose a cop pursuit it to switch into the opposite lane wait for them to follow you and switch out just before you hit another car.
- An infamous trick in Ace Combat Assault Horizon's multiplayer, known as "ground pounding", is essentially this.
- This has no-doubt happened a lot in War Thunder from people being unfamiliar with how their plane handles or from becoming too used to Arcade Mode's flight models when entering their first Realistic Mode game.
- At least one example of the missile version happens in Star Wars: Clone Wars: Anakin, pursued by a large numbers of enemy fighters, orders his squadron of clone pilots to fire their missiles across the bow of a capital ship and then lures the enemy fighters into the path of the missiles, and even carries over some of the missiles to one of the enemy carriers.
- The finale of Justice League Unlimited had Batman do this with the Omega Effect (self-guided Eye Beams of Ret Gone); he throws down a Mook he passes trying to elude it so said Mook bounces into the Effect's path at just the right moment.
- The Gargoyles use this trick against the Steel Clan a couple of times. Late in the second season, one of them even lampshades it: "It's amazing how many times that works"
- The good guys fall for this in ReBoot. Two web creatures on a collision course going around the Principal office, each followed by half a dozen CPU's. Web creatures escape, all CPU's crash and explode.
- 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.
- In the Wing Commander Academy episode "The Lords of the Sky", Grunt uses the bottom of a canyon to scrape off some Kilrathi fighters chasing him, by diving down at it and then pulling out at the last moment.
- Baloo, in TaleSpin, is a master of this, getting the air pirates to crash their fighters when they can't follow his cargo seaplane!
"If you can't fly, don't mess with the eagles!"
"What a lousy place for a wall!" - Don Karnage, after hitting one Baloo managed to avoid.
- Occurred in Real Life, as seen on History Channel's Dogfights show. In the episode, "Desert Aces", the to-be Israeli jet ace Geora Epstein is chasing a MiG-21, which tries to shake him off by doing a Split-S maneuver at dangerously low altitude - a Suicidal Gotcha. At first Epstein thought he had crashed and died... but then, the MiG began rising out of the swirling storm of sand kicked up by his jet afterburners. The feat was Awesome, but Impractical, and Epstein used common sense, casually flying up to the struggling MiG and scragging it with his cannon.
- At least one Real Life instance of the Wronski Feint have been reported to be used by pilots of No. 303 Polish Fighter Squadron during WWII.
- And a variant was used regularly: the Poles were used to underpowered, underarmed Polish and French fighters, and found that the only way to make any impression on German formations was to dive head-on at them and open fire at point-blank range. When they tried this in Merlin-engined, 8-gun Hurricanes, the tactic proved to be awesomely effective, causing more than one German raid to abort entirely as the pilots tried desperately to get away from these madmen...
- This may be why J.K. Rowling made the inventor of the trope-naming manoeuvre Polish.
- Also (sometimes) averted during the WWII Polish Campaign: German Bf 110 pilots understood their large and heavy fighters would become hapless victims of the Wronski Feint if they attempted to dogfight small and nimble PZL fighters, so they used superior engine power to fight only in the vertical plane, by zoom-climbing towards the Poles, guns blazing, and repeat the shoot-out during the afterwards dive.
- At least until the end of WW2, this also gave the Swiss the edge when flying substantially inferior aircraft against combatants who had entered their (neutral) airspace - they knew the mountains like the back of their hand and the intruders did not.
- This was pretty much the only edge that the infamous Stuka dive-bomber had if it was engaged by enemy fighters; it could withstand dives that would rip the wings clean off a Spitfire, but at the cost of a dismal turn-rate and mediocre top speed.
- Dive bombers such as the Stuka and SBD Dauntless had remarkable turn rates when not carrying ordnance (their wing area is very generous, to provide the lift to carry bombs, so when the payload is gone, their wing-loading numbers approach or exceed contemporary fighters). The US Navy used SB Ds as fighters during the early days of WWII when its supply of Wildcats was limited. One of the episodes of Dogfight focused on a Dauntless pilot holding off a whole passel of Zero fighters, and shooting down a couple.
- Captain Jim Denton and Brent Brandon, USAF, manage to pull one of these in an unarmed EF-111 Raven radar jammer against an Iraqi Dassault Mirage F1. Though the kill was credited to a nearby fighter pilot who was in the process of locking the Mirage, Denton and Brandon were both awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for their role in causing the Mirage to plow into the ground at full speed. This is the only time that a kill of a jet has been credited to an F-111 Airframe.
- This tactic is used by the crew of Philippine Coast Guard MCS-3000 to escape the chase from eight Chinese vessels (namely, CMS and FLEC) during the Scarborough Shoal Incident.
- Royal Navy pilot Lt. Charles Lamb pulled this move to shake off two pursuing Italian fighters who thought his antiquated Swordfish biplane would be easy meat. Lamb dived to sea level hoping the far faster Italians would overshoot and lose him. Pulling out of his dive just above sea level, Lamb's rear-cockpit observer alerted him to the two Italians who were in close pursuit. But a hundred-miles-an-hour biplane can pull out of a dive far more easily than a monoplane fighter doing nearly four hundred... the two Italians crashed into the sea, so intent on an easy kill they hadn't noticed their own peril.
- The all-female Soviet Night Witches used old biplanes for night bombing raids that were difficult to shoot down since they flew slower than the stall speed of the Germans' Messerschmitts and Focke-Wulfs.