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Just Plane Wrong

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Dab on the avihaters.
Aircraft, air combat, aviation technology, pilot procedures and airport operations in general are often depicted incorrectly in media. As with many technical fields and sciences, this is usually only noticed by those who work in aviation in some capacity, or have an expressed interest and knowledge about it—but don't worry, most of them will tell you in long tirades exactly where that show got it wrong.

Several factors conspire to vex aviation fans:

  • Rule of Cool: In entertainment, as expected, realism takes a backseat to visuals and coolness.
  • Cost and Availability of Aircraft: Sure, scoring a four-seat Cherokee or Cessna might be as easy as walking down to the nearest airfield and saying "Who wants to be in a movie?", but larger or older aircraft, especially World War II era, are expensive, rare, and require special care and insurance. Before the advent of CG, most movie makers resorted to modifying or painting more commonly-available training aircraft to play the part of warbirds in movies (see also Weapons Understudies). Availability can also be affected by the period during which the work was filmed—it's not like the Air Force was just gonna give you the keys to their high-altitude spy planes during the Cold War (The Soviets certainly weren't going to let you touch theirs). As such, many films rely heavily on Stock Footage.
  • Viewers Are Morons: As previously stated, most people won't be able to tell the difference between different aircraft types, or don't care. The only commercial aircraft that anyone in the audience can reasonably be expected to recognize are the Concorde, the Boeing 747 and possibly the Airbus A380, which (especially in older films and shows) tend to go to glamorous faraway places; other commercial aircraft are relatively interchangeable, and more likely to be headed somewhere pedestrian. Most of the time, the number of engines, wing configuration, or manufacturer won't even have to match what the actors are calling it—what airplane was in the background shot is not something most viewers are going to question (or are going to care to question).
  • Most of the times, they just don't care. This is more evident in illustrated or animated media.
  • Finally, the most common offense committed towards aviation, like everything else, comes from not doing the research. Cable News, with their need to report on any incident or accident as quickly as possible for the first scoop, will invariably use information gleaned from the most misinformed and unreliable sources and witnesses. This "information" is of course then exaggerated and spun to grab the audience, resulting in reports of 600 dead from a 25-passenger commuter aircraft, or cameras following a plane with a damaged landing gear, in the hopes of catching a fireball barreling down the runway. Other examples come from doing half the research, and just shooting off aviation terms to sound technical.

This trope is most certainly not limited to aviation—for the naval equivalent, see Artistic License – Ships, for railroading examples see Just Train Wrong, and for military vehicles and regular cars see Tanks, but No Tanks and Artistic License – Cars respectively. Commonly overlaps with Artistic Licence – Physics, as well. A subtrope is Every Helicopter Is a Huey.

Example subpages:

Other examples:

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  • Both the Top Gun and MacGyver examples are understandable in that few US planes would have been easily obtainable with two tails (namely, the F-15 and F/A-18: both examples above have the good guy aircraft being an F-14, so that one's out), and an entertainment studio getting their hands on an actual MiG, or for that matter any Soviet fighter aircraft of any designation, during the Cold War era would have been completely impossible.
    • Another example of this is the Korean War-era film The Hunters, which uses repainted F-84F Thunderstreaks as "MiG-15s" for the good guys' F-86 Sabres to fight. Of course, F-84s (earlier models of them, anyway) fought real MiG-15s during the war.
    • This also includes Russian helicopters. In a number of action movies filmed during the 80s, standard NATO-issue or civilian helicopters were modeled to look like Soviet helicopters, typically to look like Mi-24 "Hind" helicopters by adding wings with hardpoints and various bits and bobs. On occasion, the lazy crew didn't even go that far, just slapping a red star decal on an unmodified Western-made helicopter with an obviously Western or civilian paint job.
  • Just at the edge of this trope's umbrella: all manner of 1950s Science Fiction serials featured craft of various descriptions, played by footage of a WWII V-2 missile, of which quite a bit of stock footage abounds.
  • Many World War II movies found the need to use substitutes for aircraft such as Messerschmitt 109s and Mitsubishi Zeroes, due to the simple fact that most of them got destroyed in the war. That the Ejército del Aire was equipped with German and Italian aircraft during the Spanish Civil War and continued to operate them after the war was a boon for film-makers.
    • The role of the Messerschmitt Bf-109 was played in several movies by the Messerschmitt Bf-108 Taifun which was designed as a recreational aircraft but became a military trainer. They were easier to find (and were still produced in France after the war) and looked similar since some aspects of the fighter were even based off of the Bf-108.
    • Another common substitute for the Bf-109 is the HA-1112, a Spanish-built copy distinguishable by its smile-shaped air intake. Similarly, the CASA 2.111 (an He-111 copy also built in Spain) has been used on a number of occasions to stand in for actual He-111 bombers. Amusingly, both aircraft are powered by the Rolls Royce Merlin - the same engine famously used in such Allied aircraft as the Spitfire and Mustang!
  • In "brevity code" (NATO pilot speak) "bogeys" are unidentified aircraft. Hostiles are "bandits".
  • Any large military transport aircraft tends to automatically be referred to as a Hercules. Even if it's a 4-engined transport JET.
  • Any aircraft with one engine and two or four seats is a Cessna according to the news, regardless of its actual manufacturer, although this could be a case of Brand Name Takeover.
  • The Red Baron's red Fokker triplane is so iconic because it was already rare and he was the only person who painted his bright red,note  specifically after the death of his mentor, Oswald Boelcke. This fails to stop stories set in World War I, such as Flyboys, from using them as the standard German plane.
    • While the Fokker Triplane was iconic, the entire Flying Circus was operating them at the time, having been one of the first squadrons to operate the type. In fact the Fokker Dr1 was in widespread service in the spring of 1918 when Richthofen was killed, and 320 were built before production ended due to their annoying habit of having wing failures. Still, other fighters like the Albatros D.VII were much more common in German service.
    • Also, the origin of the name "Flying Circus" and garish color scheme not just of Manfred von Richthofen's plane but all of the planes in the squadron, was due to a bit of rebellion against authority... an order had come down that aircraft should be camouflaged to disguise their shape/size/configuration etc. but did not specify colors nor that any attempt should be made to have them blend in with the sky or ground (depending on an enemy's vantage point). So as to follow the letter of the order without trying to "hide" the planes (which would be unchivalrous), the bright colors and wild patterns were applied, with no two planes being painted alike. Someone commented that they looked like a circus, and the name was born. The name "Circus" later came to be used by British pilots to refer to any German squadron — in the early Biggles stories, written by a World War I pilot, pilots talk of "so-and-so's circus" having moved in across the lines.
  • In reality, a plane that loses power retains its aerodynamic properties and momentum and can be guided down to an emergency landing if the pilot doesn't manage to restart the engines. In fiction, a plane that loses power instantly slows to zero speed and plummets. Some types have better glide characteristics than others, but they all can glide without engine power; otherwise they wouldn't be able to fly at all. This is because in the movie-world aerodynamic lift does not exist, and the engines instead condense phlogiston and fill the wings with it. This is also why all fuel explodes.
  • Many media, such as Lost, depict people in passenger jets (in coach) getting up from the window seats sliding past the person in the aisle seat (with feet still on the ground), while the person in the aisle seat continues to sit. In contemporary passenger jets, there is nowhere near enough space for even the skinniest people to do that in coach.
  • An airplane that loses a wing as the result of an accident or combat will roll towards the absent wing. Both wings produce lift; if one disappears, the asymmetric forces will cause this rotation.
  • Blimps and airships in general are uncommon aircraft, which compounds the utter confusion Hollywood seems to have about them. Unlike an elastic balloon, a blimp simply does not pop if you shoot it or poke a hole in it. The gas inside is barely under any pressure, if it is pressurized at all. Disturbingly, the Goodyear Blimps get shot full of holes all the time (the tiny leaks are so minor they're usually only discovered during maintenance), by yahoos who think that it will pop. Also, all modern blimps use inert helium or hot air instead of explosive Hydrogen, specifically to avoid a repeat of The Hindenburg disaster. Even airships and balloons that used flammable hydrogen were notoriously difficult to shoot down because while the airships were full of hydrogen, they didn't contain any of the oxygen needed to sustain combustion, which meant explosions were extraordinarily rare (Hindenberg's fiery destruction is infamous because it was so unusual). Many hydrogen-filled airships were able to limp back to friendly territory and land even after being shot up by Allied pilots.
  • Combat between modern aircraft is often depicted in fiction as taking place within a spitting distance of each other. In reality, the aircraft are generally several miles apart. Even worse, most missiles wouldn't work at the insanely close range depicted by Hollywood. The short-distance missile that most U.S. fighter jets use is the Sidewinder, which still has a minimum range of 0.6 miles. That's right: Their "emergency shotgun" close-distance weapon is still only good at more than a half-mile away.note 
  • A few films and TV shows tend to depict aircraft and helicopter-mounted rocket pods, especially Russian UB-16-57UMP and UB-32 rocket pods, as machine gun pods.
  • All ATC is referred to as "ground control," presumably because that's where the controllers are. There are actually several "levels," if you will, of air traffic control. Ground is only concerned with movements of vehicles on, well, the surface. Tower owns the runways and immediate surrounding airspace, Approach owns the airspace further out from a busy primary airport (generally 30 miles or so), and Center owns everything else.
  • Starting aircraft engines, particularly older ones, is often complicated and time-consuming. Even in newer aircraft with computers to help manage the process, there are still a series of deliberate steps so pilots can notice and diagnose engine problems before costly damage and/or safety risks occur. In fact, many jets don't even have the ability to start their engines, and have to be hooked up to a "starter cart" on the ground to get the engines spinning. Many piston-engine planes require either a ground crewman turning a starter crank or manually spinning the prop while the pilot does his thing in the cockpit. Aviators often cringe when a film or TV character hops into an aircraft, casually flips a couple of switches, and uneventfully flies away moments later. There are plenty of aircraft that can start without external help, but even those have a much longer startup sequence than you'll generally see on television.
  • On the topic of Top Gun, it's a very common habit to depict aerial combat in modern times as close-quarters dogfights with opponents maneuvering around each other trying to get a missile lock or line up their gunsights for a burst of cannon fire, reminiscent of the aerial dogfights of World War I and II; in reality, air combat technology of today is specifically geared towards long range engagements, often at such ranges that you might not even see the enemy you're shooting at apart from a blip on your radar screen, and trying to get into close range engagements is exactly the last thing you would want to do, since often at those ranges it isn't even possible for your missiles to adequately lock on and maneuver.

  • Advertising example: The Intel Corporation, along with an Australian electronics company called Dick Smith Electronics, started advertising a competition for the chance to fly 'to the edge of space' in the backseat of a MiG-31. However, the competition promotional advertising keeps showing pictures of a MiG-29...
  • Weiss Schwarz ran an adnote  on Japanese TV for a new and upcoming trading card pack for KanColle, a game featuring girls based off of ships of the Japanese navy during World War II. The ad begins with a fighter plane flying off into the sky, and out of all the planes that they could have chosen, they selected a P-51D Mustang, one of the most iconic fighter of the USAAF. They didn't even bother to change the paint job to look like a more appropriate Zero fighter!
  • There's a Nissan ad depicting a 747 about to crash due to its front landing gear being broken. A plane with broken landing gear would simply land without using the landing gear.

    Anime & Manga 
  • In Vividred Operation, the F-35 Lightning IIs shown are carrier launched, meaning they are the Navy C variant. However, they also appear to have an internal gun, which only the Air Force A variant has. They are also seen trying to attack ground targets with AMRAAMs rather than Harpoon missiles or laser guided bombs. Also, the military tries attacking ground targets with F-22 Raptors, despite the fact that F-22s are not designed for a ground attack role and can only carry GPS-guided bombs.note 
  • Aldnoah.Zero has an F-22 squadron scrambled in the second episode to attack a Vers Landing Castle. Considering this is a two-kilometer long spaceship/space station that has planted itself firmly in the ground, this is not exactly a job well-suited for the Raptor. In contrast, the same episode later shows a more accurate scenario for the F-22 when a second squadron engages a Vers aircraft transporting a Martian Kataphrakt. The F-22s in this scene initially engage at BVR (beyond visual range) by correctly launching missiles from an internal missile bay. When the Martian craft closes in to "knife-fight" range with them, they use a starboard-mounted Vulcan cannon. The last F-22 that gets its left wing blown off even rolls toward the missing wing.
  • Area 88 has a good number of mistakes. Simply in the first dogfight in the opening episode of the 2004 anime, we have Shin's F-8 Crusader engaging a flight of four Mig-17 fighters in a dogfight. The F-8, while reportedly a good combat aircraft, was more known for the strength of it's engine, not it's turning circle. Shin maneuvers with the enemy planes, which are not capable of supersonic fight and thus slower, in a turning battle. The Mig-17 did not have hydraulically boosted control surfaces, and the plane could not handle turning at high speed, thus Crusader pilots were instructed to keep their speed up when engaging them. Shin meanwhile is shown in close proximity and actively moving with them, enough so that the Migs are able to get weapons on him twice, though he managed to evade, and eventually downs three of them. Shin's F-8 is also depicted with the missiles on his aircraft mounted under the wings, while a Crusader typically carried it's air to air missiles on a Y-shaped pylon on the side of the fuselage, just behind the canopy. In a later episode we see Kim's AV-8B Harrier II take a direct missile strike from an enemy Mig-21, seemingly downing him. He pops up later in the fight in a hover, launching missiles from what he calls a 'makeshift SAM site'. Not only would this quickly bleed out his fuel(Harriers typically only had 90 seconds of hover time), but attempting to angle his plane upwards to the ridiculous degree (nearly standing the plane on it's tail) shown would quickly result in him crashing. Also that missile hit he took earlier in the dogfight was sufficient enough to knock out the radio and visibly injure the pilot, yet the aircraft remains airworthy and the cockpit controls intact.

    Comic Books 
  • The Avengers: The Quinjets (presumably named for the five jet or rocket or ramscoop or Applied Phlebotinum engines in the rear) can get away with more, because they're not even marginally based on a real airframe. Nor, depending on the artist, even a consistent design from issue to issue. Like the X-Men's SR-71, the Quinjets can blast off from beneath Avengers Mansion in midtown Manhattan without disturbing the neighbours or shattering the glass of every skyscraper in a 20 block radius. According to Tony Stark in the The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes animated series, despite having the aerodynamic characteristics of a Keurig coffeemaker, they can fly at Mach 8, operate underwater (in the animated version they actually launch via an underwater launch tube that leads to the East River) and even fly in space. And, apparently, their Applied Phlebotinum engines never seem to need refueling. Maybe that's how the X-Men's SR-71 can hold so many people. And despite having the airframe equivalent of mutant superpowers, we're informed by the same Earth's Mightiest Heroes animated series that they only cost $20 million apiece, less than the $27 million sticker price of a Bombardier Q400 turboprop passenger plane. One would think $20 billion would've been more plausible, and Tony Stark could still afford it.
  • Mortadelo y Filemón: One comic deals with the titular duo making tests on a plane designed by Professor Bacterio which, among other things, can completely stop in the air with the same sound a car makes when braking. It is somewhat of a Running Gag that Mortadelo can actually sink a plane into an airport's runway - while trying to lift off. And there are several instances of them being given planes slow enough that an old sparrow can go faster than them.
  • Private Eye: A possibly deliberate example: a "The Broonites" cartoon has Gordon Brown being packed off to Afghanistan in an English Electric Lightning as a passenger. The Lightning is long-retired and the one shown is a one-seater. This may well be a jibe at poor British military equipment. The Lightning was also a (very) short-range fighter.
  • Superman: One issue had the hero flying escort for an American aircraft that was supposedly taking a captured political leader to stand trial. However, rather than the cargo/passenger plane of whatever size that might have been expected, the aircraft in question was a single-seat F-16.
  • Wonder Woman:
    • Wonder Woman (1942): While the invisibility of Diana's "robot plane" can be handwaved as magitek the fact that it is propeller propelled and functions as a super fast and maneuverable Space Plane is less excusable.
    • The Legend of Wonder Woman (2016): The framed nose glazing in B-17s is not just a simple round convex shape as depicted in the book, it's not even depicted with framing.note 
  • X-Men: The X-Men's modified Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird has an interior that — depending on the artist — looks as large as a fair-sized business jet, easily accommodating seats for five to ten X-Men. The real SR-71 is a two-seater, with most of the fuselage presumably given over to fuel tanks and electronics. The X-Men also routinely launch their Blackbird straight up like a rocket from a secret hanger under A SCHOOL in upstate New York. And the neighbours never seem to notice or complain to the FAA about the sonic booms. Later Blackbirds dispense with being based on the SR-71 and use extensive alien technology, allowing them to have whatever characteristics the plot needs without being quite as bad about this trope.

    Fan Works 

  • In the Animorphs book "The Deception", Ax (in a human morph) uses an F-14 fighter carrying a nuclear bomb to threaten the Yeerks. The F-14 isn't, and never was, capable of carrying nuclear weapons— it was developed as an interceptor, and it was only late in its career that it gained the ability to carry any bombs at all. An F/A-18 Hornet would be more realistic if they wanted a nuclear-capable naval fighter.
  • Airplanes in Atlas Shrugged frequently take off without any pre-flight safety checks, in the manner of getaway cars. They are also have "steering wheels" and "tail lights." Story-wise, they are treated much like cars.
  • Dale Brown knows next to nothing about any airplane being produced outside of the US, and his Patrick McLanahan novel series shows this in spades.
  • Dan Brown committed an especially egregious one of these in Angels & Demons when portraying Robert Langdon's transatlantic flight in a "Boeing X-33". In Real Life, the X-33 project never produced a working prototype, but even if it had done so, the X-33 was unmanned, too small to accommodate any payload at all, let-alone adequate life-support, and was built not by Boeing, but by their arch-rival Lockheed-Martin. While straying from factual accuracy in The Da Vinci Code could be chalked up to Artistic License – History, the aviation inaccuracies here really can't be called anything short of this trope.
  • Tom Clancy's book Red Storm Rising features the F-19A "Ghostrider" Stealth Fighter. At the time of writing, the Real Life F-117 "Nighthawk" (the triangular thing you think of as the Stealth Fighter) was operational, but very secret. The actual missions it's used in (other than shooting down a Soviet AWACS in its first in-story deployment) closely mirror the missions the real F-117 was used for, but Clancy's version is still far more capable than the real thing, being capable of going supersonic and engaging in air-to-air combat. It seems to be based on the entirely fictional F-19 model kit by Testor.
  • Elizabeth Bear did not look up the length of transoceanic zeppelin voyages in writing New Amsterdam. She implies one takes two weeks or so; the actual length of such flights was five or six days, and zeppelins purpose-built for transoceanic journeys like the Hindenburg could do a round trip in that time.
  • In Matthew Reilly's Seven Ancient Wonders series, the protagonist's Cool Plane, the Halicarnassus, is an armoured, VTOL-capable 747. It is apparently so wondrous that it can fly across Africa and then still hover like a gunship, firing from the (manned) minigun turrets on the wings. Oh, and it is so stable that the team's resident Badass Israeli can fire a Barrett .50 cal from the wings, standing up.
    • In Scarecrow, a French Harrier is hit by a truck, after hovering like a gunship. There is no external damage, but it blows up a few seconds later. Not only that, but France doesn't have Harriers.
  • In Explorers the helicopter has amazing fuel capacity. The kid's spaceship is flying when the drive-in is open - evening, between 9pm and 1am. Then a helicopter encounters it shortly after the drive-in. We next see the helicopter landing at the airport in broad daylight - presumably at the end of a shift, late enough in the morning that the newspapers have been published and are available. That's easy 7 hours of flight that evening - a long time for almost any kind of helicopter to be just tooling around in the sky.
  • Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins had a little confusion about Air Force One in the Left Behind series. Protagonist Rayford Steele laments that he's been turned down as pilot of Air Force One, and someone mentions that he's applied for the job with each new president. The problem is, he's a commercial airline pilot. Air Force One is a military aircraft operated by the USAF and has always been piloted by, at lowest rank, a lieutenant colonel. The President himself also laments at one point having to give up Air Force One, as if the designation is for a specific aircraft - "Air Force One" actually applies to any Air Force craft currently carrying the President, rather than specifically referring to the VC-25s most commonly used for this purpose (of which there are two, anyway, so even giving up one would still leave him with another).
    • "Air Force One" in the series is stated to be a brand new top of the line airplane, the 757. Except the Boeing 757 already exists in the real world, and has since 1982, thirteen years before the series started. It's clear the authors thought of the popular 747 and imagined one model later. In our world, the 757 is smaller than the 747, intended for medium range flights. That said, there is a 757 that sees regular use as Air Force One — it's called the VC-32 and it's used for short-distance flights to airports that can't handle a 747.
  • In The Tomorrow Series, the protagonists attack an enemy airbase at one point. The planes are described as being fabric-covered and having visible ribs after they've burned. This would be a bit out of date by 1940, but the novels are (implicitly) set 20 Minutes into the Future.
  • In William S. Lind's Victoria the Nothern Confederacy is easily able to locate and intercept stealth aircraft because they employ 1950s long-wave radar tech. If old radar could find stealth bombers, we would employ it alongside or incorporate it into modern sets. NC pilots are also easily able to defeat air-to-air missiles by flying in diamond or box formations, the missiles always pass harmlessly through the center. (In reality, the missile would either pick a target at random as it got close enough to tell them apart, or if the box was too tight for that, detonate its proximity fuse in the middle and turn the whole flight into so much shrapnel.)
  • Warren Fahy's novel Fragment suggests that debris from Amelia Earhart's plane may have washed up on Henders Island, with the characters examining a life preserver labeled "Electra" and stating that was the name of Amelia's plane. In truth, the aircraft model was a Lockheed Electra 10E, and was never given a name beyond the registration number NR16020.
  • The Fungus was written in 1985 and is set 20 Minutes into the Future, but features a Tu-144, which was withdrawn from airline service in 1979.
  • Played straight in most of Star Wars Legends but noticeably averted in the X-Wing Series. Rebel Alliance and New Republic fighters have significant advantages over Imperial TIE models in atmospheric combat because, being shaped relatively more like real-world aircraft, they're capable of aerodynamic maneuvering where TIEs very much are not.

  • The video for Sabaton's "Soldier of Heaven" depicts first a bright red triplane chasing the tail of a biplane of indeterminate manufacture over the World War I Italian Alpine battlefield where the band is performing, followed by a pair of World War II Bf 109s overflying it. The latter is probably Rule of Symbolism: the song lyrics note that the bodies of many Italian and Austro-Hungarian soldiers still lie where they fell because they couldn't be feasibly retrieved, and thus "saw" the next war fought over the same ground (although no significant fighting actually took place in that particular area in WWII because Austria was part of Italy's ally Germany). The former, though, is simply a misplaced Call-Back to "The Red Baron" from the previous album: the Germans weren't involved in the Alpine front and Manfred von Richthofen spent his whole flying career in France and Belgium, while the Austro-Hungarian Aviation Troops never operated any triplanes and painted their planes mostly in beige with bands of red, white, and red at the wingtips. Also, the triplane's wings are too long.

    Tabletop Games 
  • BattleTech lacks an explanation for how some of its aircraft even manage to get airborne, let alone fly. For instance, the Leopard Drop Ship is known as "The Brick" and yet somehow manages to remain airborne as well as go from space travel to atmospheric travel with no modifications. It is a flying slab of aerodynamics violations, with a monstrously wide, thick nose, tiny engines, and even smaller lift surfaces—it apparently remains airborne through a combination of insanity and wishful thinking.note 

  • Warhammer 40,000: While there are plenty of spacecraft, dropships and SSTO airplanes (ahem Thunderhawk) that belong in the Artistic License – Physics category, the Imperial Navy's air fighters deserve a very honorable mention on this page. Most of them are modelled to resemble WWII propeller fighters but with jets instead of propellers, yet they supposedly can achieve speeds in excess of Mach 2. With leading edges a scale foot thick, real world aerodynamics would conspire to prevent this (though tough 40K materials in turn would conspire to prevent real life aerodynamics). Brute force can make anything fly, however it has rather greater trouble making anything turn: one doesn’t put the engine in the front in supersonic fighters, because that moves the center of weight fore of the center of pressure, and would make the fighter so stable in supersonic flight that no amount of control force would allow it to maneuver. Let's not even get started on the Orks, Chaos and Dark Eldar aircraft, especially since the latter two belong in the Artistic License – Physics category by working on magic and very advanced technology, indistinguishable from magic as per Clarks Law of Science Fiction. The only aircraft that could maybe achieve their stated performance, and that's a very big maybe, are the Eldar and Tau.
    • If the Regimental Standard is to be believed, the Imperium does not even understand the concept of aerodynamics.

    Western Animation 
  • TaleSpin's Sea Duck is a cargo plane that can outperform fighter jets. This is justified in the pilot arc, where Kit points out that Baloo has extensively customized the plane, but never again are Baloo's special modifications even mentioned. Indeed, one of those modifications, the Overdrive, burns out at the climax of the pilot film and is never replaced. Although the Sea Duck's performance is implausible for a large, twin-engined cargo seaplane, there are no actual fighter jets in the series to out-perform — the setting for the series seems to be the late 1930s, where jet engine technology is barely nascent. Baloo actually pilots the first jet engine known in the series' universe. Yes, jet engine — it wasn't attached to an aircraft yet. The Sea Duck is also insanely hardy — Baloo is well-known for the many times he's flown into the sea, and had to be fished out. Any non-gliding wings-level calm-sea alighting will usually result in the utter destruction of any airplane. Also on Baloo's bragging list is flying underwater, landing inside a volcano, taking off backwards, and landing on a nightmarishly impossible roller-coaster-like runway that makes even him nervous.
    • The Sea Duck itself appears to be a Fairchild C-82 Packet transport (first flew 1944) combined with a Grumman HU-16 Albatross flying boat/amphibian (first flew 1949), with the livery of a Canadair CL-215 waterbomber (first flew 1967).
  • In Family Guy, we have Quagmire, an airline pilot. In the episode "Airport '07", Peter somehow manages to drive onto an airport ramp post-9/11, ride up to an airplane on the tarmac, detach the fuel hose from said plane, and somehow stick it in his truck. Must be a one-size-fits-all hose. And security must be pretty lax. And that truck must be a diesel truck to be able to run on Jet A. And nobody was manning the refueling truck until after Peter had used it to fuel his truck and leave. The plane later crashes after running out of fuel, and Quagmire, its pilot, loses his job, as if it's his fault that the refueling crew failed to keep an eye on their truck. He confronts Peter, admonishing "No Peter, it's perfectly normal to siphon jet fuel from an active runway with the intention of flying a pickup truck!".
    • Also falls into this due to the "active runway" comment - an active runway is the runway currently in use. Runways aren't all in use at once, but are opened or closed on the basis of wind direction. The plane in the episode sounds like it was on a taxiway instead of a runway, as being on the runway itself is only allowed if you're about to take off, are landing, or quickly crossing it. Of course, Quagmire could have just been exaggerating when he said active runway. Or the writers thought "active runway" meant that the airport was in use, not out of commission, and not the runway itself.
    • "Halloween on Spooner Street" has a Japanese Zero in an American airplane graveyard, which is not only gassed up and still fully-functional, but also has room to fit two extra people (possibly three, given Peter's girth) behind the pilot. It should be noted, however, that this situation was intentionally set up by Quagmire to pay Peter and Joe back for pranks they pulled on him earlier in the episode.
    • The 2012 Christmas episode opened with a fake commercial making fun of Northwest Airlines, 4 years after Northwest ceased to exist after merging with Delta.
    • "The Road To Germany" commits a significant history flub by showing Avro Lancaster bombers in RAF service in 1939. The Lancaster did not fly until 1941 and was not introduced into squadron service until the following year. The Short Stirling or the Avro Manchester (which was developed into the Lancaster, but had only two engines) would have been more appropriate if they wanted a large British bomber.
  • South Park often falls into this trope such as showing a DC-9 and then having it be a twin aisle on the inside, but an egregious example comes in the episode "Fatbeard". Cartman plans to go to Somalia to become a pirate by flying Southwest to Miami, and the Dubai Air to Cairo. Problem is, Southwest doesn't serve Miami, and there is no such airline as "Dubai Air." The closest would be Emirates, who doesn't have a hub in Cairo, but rather Dubai...go figure. Also, no airline even flies Miami-Cairo. Based on a standard great circle routing, Miami is actually a very inconvenient connecting point for flights from the Middle East, since "up and over" towards the north pole is more direct.
    • Once they get to the airport it continues. After talking about Southwest earlier, they check-in at the Alpha counter before showing a Southwest-painted 757 (a plane Southwest does not fly) with 5 across seating. A 757 (as well as a 737, which Southwest does fly) would have 6 across.
  • The DVD-exclusive Cars Toon "Moon Mater" mostly averts this where the space shuttle Captain Roger actually flies into space vertically like a real space shuttle, but plays this straight at the end of the short where he actually takes off on a runway.
  • Averted in an episode of Archer that takes place on a Zeppelin-like vehicle. Archer spends the entire episode convinced that the thing will go up in flames at the drop of a hat, even though everyone keeps telling him that it's using inert helium to float, instead of combustible hydrogen.
  • Transformers:
    • Transformers: Animated has Starscream, who is identified in dialogue as being a Harrier but at no point uses the trademark VTOL capabilities (even though as an alien he could hover in place as long as he wanted without having to worry about wasting fuel). He also has more in common with the Russian Su-47, and the fact Harrier production ended in 2003 means it is unlikely a Harrier resembling Starscream will ever be built.
    • Transformers: Prime, meanwhile, has Agent Fowler, who is frequently seen flying around in a fighter jet in his business suit instead of the proper pilot's uniform which is necessary to protect the wearer from the g-forces and ensure they always have a healthy supply of oxygen. This does get explained in season 2 where it turns out the fighter jet was modified by Ratchet so he could fly without one, but this still doesn't explain where he was storing the DINGUS in Convoy.
      • Even ignoring Airachnid getting an alt mode of an RAH-66 Comanche, which as mentioned above was cancelled with only two being built well over a decade before the show came out, she somehow gets it from scanning Fowler's helicopter - which, like every other helicopter in the show, is a Huey.
  • In the episode of the French animated series Code Lyoko "Guided Missile", one of the protagonists wins a ride in the back seat of a jet fighter during a live-fire weapons demo in a contest. While this alone is improbable, it become even more cringe-worthy when the plane is revealed to be an F-18, a distinctly American craft which France has never used (and, if they can help it, likely never will; an indigenous Dassalt Mirage or Rafale would have made more sense). And then the show's villain takes command of it to try and kill the rest of the protagonists... with the plane's Sidewinder air-to-air missiles.
  • Klunk's plane inventions on Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines defy all aeronautical logic.
  • Same with Jay Jay the Jet Plane, although the show is aimed at preschoolers who don't know a single thing about aeronautical logic.
  • The "J. R. R. Tolkien, Jr., Jr." sketch in Robot Chicken has one scene in which the protagonists fly F-14 jets, but Gandalf refers to them as F-16s, which isn't even getting into fighter jets in Middle-Earth in the first place. Justified in that the whole sketch is supposed to be a sneak peek at the movie adaptation of a half-finished The Lord of the Rings sequel as completed by Tolkien's six-year-old grandson, a six-year-old being exactly the sort of person who would assume "F-16" is shorthand for "awesome jet that does anything"... not to mention be responsible for the rest of the weirdness in that sketch.
  • Looney Tunes:
    • The 1943 Bugs Bunny cartoon "Falling Hare" has a few instances, most of them intentional for comedy, most notably the final gag where the plane's nosedive into an inevitable crash-landing comes to a sudden halt just feet away from impact, in complete defiance of gravity, because it ran out of fuel. On the other hand, there is the actual goof of an American airfield utilizing what appears to be a Heinkel He-111.
    • The later 1952 cartoon "Hare Lift" has even more of this, with a giant plane doing all sorts of impossible things. Again, all quite intentional in service of Rule of Funny.
  • In the Phineas and Ferb episode "De Plane! De Plane!", P&F built a giant papier-mache plane, which takes off by... tilting upward and then immediately shooting up into the sky, without building up any speed first. They didn't even build a runway.
  • Skydive, a short Amiga animation has a plane switch from free fall to hovering 1m above the ground. After landing, it shows two signs: "Surprise!", and "Harrier!"

    Real Life 
  • In 2009, the co-pilot of Air France Flight 447 treated his Airbus 330 like it was an X-Wing fighter: when the aircraft entered an aerodynamic stall, he responded (probably instinctively but against the laws of physics) by pulling back on his joystick in an attempt to raise the nose and zoom back up—when what he should have done was point the nose down and dive a bit to get more airspeed to recover. All 228 passengers and crew were killed.
  • In 2011, China released a video of one of its pilots shooting down another aircraft during training. Almost immediately it was noticed that the footage of the exercise was pretty much identical to a scene from Top Gun.
  • Calling all Soviet/Russian aircraft MiGs is equivalent to calling all US aircraft Boeings. Factually speaking, there are plenty of non-Mikoyan aircraft in Russian service — such as Sukhoi's Su-27 "Flanker". This habit is the result of Small Reference Pools: back in the Cold War, the only time that Western civilians actually paid attention to Russian military aviation, their offensive fighters were predominantly Mikoyan Bureau designs (Sukhoi mostly made ground-attack aircraft and defensive interceptors at the time), and American ace pilots and the aircraft they flew who scored many kills against Cold War opponents were called "MiG Killers" due to the fact that the Soviets were exporting only MiGs to North Korea and North Vietnam (they exported plenty of Sukhois to other countries, but said countries rarely fought the US or any US-aligned countries other than Israel). Sukhoi did not come into much international prominence until they introduced the Flanker, which was so close to the end of the Cold War that no American pilots ever flew in combat against them before the war ended (the only Sukhois involved in live combat during the Cold War, at least as reported by the US, were the Su-22s shot down in the 1981 Gulf of Sidra incident).
    • For much of the Cold War, Sukhoi was seen as an interceptor and ground attack house, producing, for example, the Su-15 aircraft that gained notoriety after being used to intercept Korean Air 007 flight, and the armored fire support workhorse of the Su-25, which ended up being the Russian A-10 in a sense. They also dabbled in bombers, but the influence of Tupolevs was unsurmountable, so they never managed to get a foothold there. In The '70s, when Mikoyan rolled out the MiG-25 interceptor and MiG-27 ground attack plane, their roles kind of switched over, with Sukhoi starting to develop a new heavy air superiority fighter (the above-mentioned Su-27) in response to the rumors of the F-15 being created in the US (though only kind of, as Mikoyan also developed the MiG-29 around the same time for the same purpose).
    • Among the reasons for the West's familiarity with MiG designs are both their high production numbers and the extent to which they've been exported. The MiG-15 and MiG-21 hold the distinctions of being the world's most-produced jet and supersonic aircraft, respectively. Similarly, in both the Korean and Vietnam wars, the Communist-bloc fighters that Western pilots engaged were exclusively either MiG designs or Chinese copies thereof. Even in the Gulf War, of the 44 Iraqi aircraft - including helicopters and transports - claimed as kills by Coalition pilots, 21 were MiGs.
    • Another reason why westerners wouldn't know about Sukhoi aircraft is that the Su-7 and Su-17 were both short-range, single-engine ground-attack aircraft that look very similar to both the twin-engine MiG-19 and the twin-engine British-built English Electric Lightning, so even if they saw one they would be more likely to mistake it for something else.
  • A 2009 leaflet for the British National Party in the UK (which also had all the "supporters'" pictures be of people who weren't actually British or who had called them a bunch of racist douchebags) had a picture of a Spitfire. However, the letters "RF" were clearly visible on it. This quickly identified the aircraft as from 303 Squadron. That's right — the BNP were campaigning against Polish migrant workers, using an aircraft which was manned by Polish ace pilots who flew in support of the UK during World War II.
  • An interesting note from a passenger on a plane which had a hole ripped in it in flight. A passenger noted:
    "The crew was pretty calm about it. They walked around and checked on everyone," he said. "But it wasn't like the movies where papers get sucked out of the hole, but you could feel it and hear the noise."
  • A South Korean newspaper had an article about two USAF F/A-18 fighter jets landing on Inchon international airport. However, the US Navy uses the F/A-18, not the Air Force. An understandable mistake when you remember in most other countries, including South Korea, fighters are under the sole jurisdiction of their air force; the US is an anomaly for having five services that fly fixed-wing aircraft, three of which also operating fighters.
  • As anyone who does air-crash investigation can tell you, there are two things common to every crash: 1) an eyewitness will tell you that the aircraft was on fire before impact, and 2) an eyewitness will tell you that the engine was sputtering before impact. This is true even if the aircraft in question is a glider or other non-engined, non-flammable type.
  • Turbulence in general scares the hell out of airline passengers, because they believe it can knock planes out of the sky. The major danger from air turbulence is injury by passengers and things being knocked around. This is why the pilots turn on the fasten seat belt sign when they encounter it. Otherwise, it's no more dangerous to an airplane than going over a bumpy road is for a car.
  • There are a few urban legends regarding the brace positions passengers are asked to assume in the event of an emergency landing. One is that they exist just to preserve a passenger's teeth so they can be identified after a fiery wreck. Another is that the positions are designed to kill passengers so airlines won't have to pay out medical bills. Real-life incidents such as the crash on the Hudson River have shown how effective brace positions are in minimizing injury to passengers so they can escape, especially after the procedures were modified.
  • Any news story on a cabin depressurization event will invariably mention the plane "plummeting" from cruising altitude when the oxygen masks deploy. The pilots are executing their training with a controlled descent, albeit a fast one that might naturally alarm passengers who aren't familiar with it. The point is to get to an altitude with breathable air as quickly as possible, as planes only have about thirty minutes of oxygen at most when the masks drop down and there will be an inevitable few stragglers who can't get the masks on in time. Hypoxia is nothing to mess around with, and it can cause brain damage and death in minutes. The pilots need oxygen too, obviously.
  • It's apparently something of a tradition in the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force to play this trope for laughs. On more than one occasion, visitors to airbase open-day events have spotted displays of "stealth planes" that are perhaps a little bit too effective to be true. The board in this example reads "F-X (Stealth Aircraft)".


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Artistic License Aviation


Gremlin Air

Being a flight service hosted by Gremlins, Gremlin Air isn't up to code.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (9 votes)

Example of:

Main / JustPlaneWrong

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