Folding wings

The US Navy has got folding wing aircraft since essentially the dawn of carrier aviation. They are pretty much required in this day and age to save space aboard aircraft carriers because of the size of the aircraft in use. The F-35C, despite being the smaller of the two combat aircraft the US Navy employs, still has a wingspan of 43 feet. The F/A-18 has a 45 foot wingspan, the E-2 has an over 80 foot wingspan. So, they are pretty massive.

Can an aircraft fly with its wings folded?

A-7 pilot taking off with wings folded

David Tussey, former US Navy A-7E Corsair II pilot, recalls on Quora;

‘I did fly with a Naval Aviator who had once taken off in the venerable A-7E with the wings folded. And remarkably, he made it back to land safely. No harm. No foul. But it was quite the story in the A-7 Community.

‘The squadron involved was performing night carrier landing practice out of NAS Lemoore, CA. They were “hotseating” pilots, meaning, while the aircraft was still running (often while it was refueling), they would have one pilot get out, and another get it, and right back off you would go. So, you can see that this hectic pace of get in the airplane and get out there flying could create an opportunity for things to go wrong.

‘In this case, the A-7 was lightly loaded (for the carrier landing practice), it was night, and the pilot did a “hot seat” while the aircraft was in the fuel pits refueling. There was no “final checker” so the pilot taxied out after refueling, and headed for the runway to takeoff. He did not notice that the wings were folded.

Landing safely

‘He did take off, realized the extreme position he was in, declared an emergency, and was able (somehow) to muscle the airplane around the pattern and land safely. Jesus H. C****t.’

Tussey concludes;

‘The guy was a terrific pilot with Vietnam experience, and the incident didn’t hurt his career as there was no damage…just a violation of NATOPS. But boy did he earn a reputation in the community, and a lot of laughter.’

VA-86 A-7 Print
This print is available in multiple sizes from – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. A-7E Corsair II VA-86 Sidewinders, AJ400 / 159292 / 1977

Photo credit: U.S. Navy