The Fighter Plane That Shot Itself Down

Fighter aviation has come a long way from the crude old days when pilots shot down their own planes as often as the enemy’s. In those early days pilots had to shoot their machine guns through the spinning blades of their aircraft’s propellers. Many pilots ended up shooting holes through their propeller blades. This problem was solved with the invention of a synchronization gear, which prohibited the guns from firing when the spinning propeller was in the way of the muzzle.

Modern fighter planes have overcome many of the technological limitations that dogged early aviators and engineers. Modern fighter jets are complicated and sophisticated machines that have been carefully designed and built to the highest degree of precision. But technology has been known to fail. In 2019, an F-16 of the Royal Netherlands Air Force ripped bullets through the fuselage—bullets that came from the plane’s own guns. It wasn’t the first time a pilot had shot itself. The first recorded incidence and the most dramatic example of a fighter plane bringing itself down took place in 1956.

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An F-11 Tiger in flight.

An F-11 Tiger in flight.


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