Only the 2nd Time I Have Heard of This…


Landing an aircraft successfully, with the wings retracted. The only other time that I am aware of was around 1968 with an F8. This article mentioned that it had happened a couple of times before (with an F8).

The Lexicans are a diverse group with a vast access to knowledge, and one of them on the F/B page got the history of this Phantom. A H/T to him!

“I asked a AF buddy if he knew something about this. His response: It’s an F-4E from the 57 Fighter Interceptor Squadron (FIS) stationed at NAS Keflavik. The incident occurred in 1978 or 1979, and the pilot’s name is Greg Harrison – a good friend of mine.

I was in the 57 FIS from Nov 80 to Nov 81, and this story was legendary. As you know, the F-4 was built by the Navy with an outer folding wing section to facilitate carrier ops. The USAF never folded the wings except for hangar storage, if necessary, or during depot maintenance. One of our checklist items was to check the locking pins on the wing fold – approximately 1 inch diameter, two inches long, and painted red. If you saw red during preflight, the outer wing was unlocked.

Of course, at Keflavik, much of our preflighting was done in the dark a good portion of the year, which meant using a flashlight to look for the red pin sticking up. Greg and his WSO did that on this flight, and saw nothing but gray. However, the jet had just come out of the paint barn, and some doofus had painted over the locking pins while painting the wings.

As Greg told me, the wings folded up smoothly and symmetrically just as they broke ground at approximately 170 knots. Fortunately, he had recently re-read the RED BARON report of Randy Cunningham’s experience in North Vietnam in 1972, where the Duke was hit by a missile on his mission where he became an ace, lost all lateral control of the wings due to double hydraulic failure, but was able to rudder roll to get feet wet before ejecting. Greg used the rudders exclusively and was able to maintain lateral control.

This picture was likely taken while they were flying around burning and dumping fuel to get to landing weight.

Greg was grounded by the squadron for a couple of weeks as “punishment” for an inadequate preflight, but because he landed safely in what should have been an uncontrollable configuration, he was never formally punished.”

Could the plane be controlled with just the rudder? (and power, of course)


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2 responses to “Only the 2nd Time I Have Heard of This…

  1. George AFB 2 JULY 1979. Aircraft crashed on take off. Crew ejected safely. I was there. Full story on my link here.

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