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Concorde, X-Wing, what the hell's the difference?


Aircraft, air combat, aviation technology, pilot procedures and airport operations in general are often depicted with uninhibited, criminal negligence in media. As with many technical fields and sciences, these deplorably delinquent acts against aviation usually tend to go unnoticed by all, except those that work in aviation in some capacity, or have an expressed interest and knowledge about it—but don't worry, most of us will tell you in long tirades exactly where that show Did Not Do the Research.

Several factors conspire to vex aviation fans:

  • Cost and Availability of Aircraft: Sure, scoring a four-seater 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 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 and the Soviets wouldn't let you touch theirs. Thus 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 is the Boeing 747, which (especially in older films and shows) tends 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).
  • On shows that do focus on aviation heavily or primarily, all aspects of aviation, especially aerodynamics, can and will take a backseat to:
  • Most of the times, they just don't care. This is more evident in illustrated or animated media, where aircraft are depicted with unspeakable levels of carelessness and thoughtlessness—even when everything else is depicted in a realistic and accurate manner.
  • Finally, the most Egregious offenses 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 comes from doing half the research, and just shooting off aviation terms to sound technical.
    • Oh, and any aircraft with one engine and two or four seats is a Cessna according to the news, regardless of its actual manufacturer, although this may have a lot to do with Popcultural Osmosis, in the same way that a vacuum cleaner is always referred to as a "hoover" in the UK, for instance.

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 see Tanks, But No Tanks.

Examples of Just Plane Wrong include:


  • 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 nearly completely impossible.
    • Another example of this is the Korean War-era film The Hunters, which uses repainted F-84 Thunderstreaks as "MiGs" for the good guys' F-86 Sabres to fight. Of course, F-84s fought real MiGs during the war.
  • 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.
  • One that features a bit in Airwolf and probably appears elsewhere is depicting all aircraft from Soviet-influenced countries as having Soviet color schemes, complete with red star. The Warsaw Pact countries (as well as Cuba) had their own roundels, many of which are still used today—Poland for example.
  • 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.
  • 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. This fails to stop stories set in WW 1 from using them as the standard German plane(extremely bad in Flyboys).
    • 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.
  • 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.
    • Even something as sizeable and lumbering as a commercial passenger jet can glide for several dozen miles (Air Transat Flight 236 managed unpowered flight for over 100 miles before making an emergency landing - there were no fatalities) before having to crash-land, and a skilled pilot can crash-land a plane without it exploding into an explosive fiery fireball explosion of flaming exploding death.
  • Many media, such as Fight Club and 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.
    • In Fight Club, the start of the scene in question makes it clear that Tyler and the Narrator are seated in an emergency exit row.


  • A possibly deliberate example: a "The Broonites" cartoon in Private Eye 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.
  • An issue of one of DC's Superman titles 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.

Fan Works


  • Top Gun:
    • The US built F-5E Tiger II stood in for MiGs, just as various models of Sikorsky helicopters with wings stuck on have had to stand in for Soviet/Russian Mi-24 "Hind" gunships. And the aircraft was called a MiG-28—no such bird exists[1]
    • A pilot uses the missile release button on his control stick to fire his guns.
    • Most of the school/practice battles in Top Gun have planes within rock-throwing distance of each other, an astoundingly unsafe situation as well as being too close for missiles, sensors, guns, and engines to work any more. The plot-crucial engine flameout should've happened about twenty times before it did. Remember that your plane's engine(s) can't breathe exhaust any better than you can.
  • Air Force One:
    • The titular presidential 747 features an Escape Pod, something that the real plane used as Air Force One does not, and could not possibly, have. President Clinton is said to have commented on that inaccuracy when watching the movie.
    • One scene featured some F-15s switching on their afterburners. This caused these fighter jets to instantly jump from subsonic speeds to Mach 2, like Han Solo turning on the hyperdrive. Real afterburners simply provide a greater force of thrust, allowing the aircraft to smoothly accelerate past the compressibility range until it attains a supersonic airspeed—they don't cause Newton's 2nd Law of Motion to be temporarily suspended.
  • Lampshaded in the parody movie Airplane where the titular jet is accompanied by a propeller sound effect which is both incongruous and a Shout-Out to Zero Hour, the B-movie it was based on.
  • In Iron Eagle II, one of the heroes hears planes approaching, starts screaming and yelling "Those are MiGs! I can hear it!" and runs out onto the tarmac—to look at a flight of F-4 Phantom IIs, one of the most distinctive American designs out there.
    • The F-4's in Iron Eagle II were playing Mig-29's (which were identified as such at the beginning of the movie), which would have been impossible to procure. Nevertheless the differences were glaring from the side and rear (Mig-29's were twin tailed while F-4's were single tailed), but perhaps from the front they looked similar enough to justify their use (i.e. the droopy nose and twin intakes). Presumably renting a few F-18s, which from many angles look very nearly identical to the Mi G-29, was beyond their budget. And don't forget the first Iron Eagle movie which has Dassault Mirages play as Mig-23's, a more glaring error (since Mig-23's were swing-wing, whereas Mirages were delta-wing).
    • A similar trick, & possibly the inspiration, was done in an episode of The Six Million Dollar Man, where Steve identifies a fighter (an F-94?) by the engine note alone (supposedly realistic, too).
    • The first movie has a particularly ridiculous scene in which a motorbike races against a Cessna 152 which obviously has full flap deployed and the throttle almost closed. Given that the Cessna cruises at around 107 knots, almost 200 km/h, this was necessary to make the contest look even remotely fair.
  • The Korean War drama The Hunters uses repainted F-84F Thunderstreaks (which entered service too late to see action in Korea, though previous versions with unswept wings did) to play MiG-15s. Those -84s have been popularly known as "ThunderMiGs" ever since.
  • In War Games, General Beringer's order to "scramble two F-16s [single engine, one tail and rather small] out of Galena" in response to a phantom Soviet bomber apparently gets garbled somewhere along the way: the aircraft seen moments later are unmistakably F-15s [two engines, two tails and markedly larger than the F-16].
    • This is in itself an odd example, as F-16s, which carry much smaller missile loads (A maximum of 6)and significantly less radar and fuel capabilities, is not a primary interceptor. F-15s are what probably would have been scrambled in this case. This may be an in-universe example of the staff at the airbase altering the order to the correct one.
    • Also depends on the location: during the Cold War, Air National Guard squadrons on the West and East Coasts outfitted for the intercept role received intercept-optimised F-16s, so it's not inconceivable that they would have been tasked to the intercept—Florida ANG, for example, made plenty of Bear intercepts during the Cold War. But the simplest explanation is that Beringer was mistaken in what assets were available.
  • The Messerschmitt Bf108 Taifun trainer shows up playing German fighters in several 1960s war films, notably 633 Squadron and The Longest Day. The Bf108 is a relatively common civil aircraft (they continued to be built in France after the war as the Nord 1000) that bears an unmistakable family resemblence to the Bf109 fighter.
    • Notably averted in The Great Escape where a Bf108 is actually used to portray a Bf108 which two of the escapees steal from a training field
  • Harvards (better known as T-6 Texans or SNJs) with bits glued on were used to represent fighter bombers in A Bridge Too Far. The C-47s used for that film were real C-47s, however. Or possibly repainted DC-3s, which are basically the same thing.
  • The movie Memphis Belle is another example of an intensive effort being made to bring together actual vintage aircraft for an accurate filming; in that movie's case, most of the world's surviving B-17s. Note you never see more than 3 actual (as opposed to models or CGI) B-17s at a time.
    • though the movie played this trope both ways, 5 real B-17s were used for the film and as a bonus they were the correct model for the time BUT the intercepting Bf-109 fighters were HA-1112s (though replacing 109s with 1112s was common practice at the time) but the real offenders are the Escort planes as they used early P-51 Mustangs instead of P-47s. Not only do the two aircraft look nothing alike planes that could fly all the way to Berlin and back with external drop tanks were shown pealing off early.
  • A particular screamer from Pearl Harbor; when a character says "We can't outrun Zeros, we'll have to out-fly them!" The American P-40 could easily outrun the Zero, but didn't have a prayer if they tried to out-turn the Zero, one of the most amazingly maneuverable—but relatively slow—fighter aircraft of the war.
    • Ironically, this may have been one of the few things Pearl Harbor actually managed to get right: U.S. Airman were remarkably ignorant about the Zero's capabilities in 1941. Accurate reports out of China were dismissed as exaggerated. About the only corrrect thing they did know about the Zero was its "Type 00" designation, the "Zeke" Reporting Name wasn't issued until late 1942. And the Zero wasn't that much slower than the P-40 in level flight, only in a dive.
    • The real screamer was that the CGI P-40s' control surfaces didn't move! No flaps, no rudder, anything! Possibly the other aircraft too, but there were a number of gratuitous beauty shots of the P-40s that made it painfully obvious.
  • In the film Fail-Safe, planes are ordered to hit their afterburners. The film then cuts to stock footage of what is clearly a bunch of planes firing missiles instead.
  • In the Hollywood remake of Godzilla, the military aircraft are portrayed inaccurately. Apache helicopters have fixed, side-mounted guns (as opposed to the swiveling nose-mounted gun of a real Apache) and Sidewinders (not mounted on the Apache, which would use Stingers). Also, later in the film, the missiles the F/A-18s used to kill Godzilla on the bridge were labeled "Harpoons", which are designed for anti-ship usage. There is a land attack version of that missile (the SLAM—Standoff Land Attack Missile), but they're designed for hardened targets.
  • The Last King of Scotland has Israeli hostages at Entebbe rescued using a Soviet-built An-12 transport plane. The actual operation used American C-130s.
  • In the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies, the Chinese planes that attack the stray British ship are repeatedly described as "Chinese MiGs". Although China does have MiGs, these aren't them; the aircraft are clearly recognizable as Q-5s, an indigenous Chinese type (admittedly partly based on MiG-19 technology, but very different in appearance). Apparently a case of the special effects department doing better research than the scriptwriters.
    • -and a Qian-5 that drops a torpedo would be an extraordinary beast. They should have used the Chinese Harbin-5 bomber, based on the Ilyushin-28.
    • Of course, the villain of Tomorrow Never Dies is a thinly-disguised Expy of Rupert Murdoch who's stage-managing the whole incident in order to kick off a war, apparently just for the sake of having something interesting to report on; the front page he's shown designing for his flagship British tabloid afterwards is eerily reminiscent of the Sun. Not doing the research wouldn't be entirely out of character.
    • In You Only Live Twice, for an American Gemini rocket launch they used stock footage of a Soviet Soyuz rocket, and for a Soviet Soyuz rocket launch they used stock footage of an American Gemini rocket.
  • Live Free or Die Hard's F-35 sequence. Just look at the list of goofs.
    • To sum up: the F-35 is shown with two guns, when it really has one. It also uses its VTOL capacity to make a hovering attack. You could do this, but you'd run out of fuel really fast. Also, in a few HUD shots, the MASTER-ARM is set switched to SIM, which means the F-35 couldn't actually fire its gun or missiles.
      • Most likely the former is because information on the gunpod layout was sketchy at the time the film was made, and it was thought it might continue using the GAU-12; they probably went and looked at the GAU-12 on a Harrier, which appears to be two guns in two pods, but one actually holds the ammunition. So they didn't just make a mistake, they made a mistake about an entirely separate aircraft.
  • Independence Day: RAF-marked F-16s in Iraq? The Air Force using F/A-18s in the climactic battle at the end?
    • If you freeze-frame during the part of the final battle when all the fighter planes are forming up, you can see a couple of Harriers, A-10s and F-16s in the mix, however that's the only time you ever see them and they're way in the background. They only budgeted for one extreme-detail fighter CG-model. Guess which one? Yup. The F/A-18. That's why there was such a fuckload of just those for the finale.
    • The novelization is a little more realistic in this department. Eagle squadron (the one the president commands) is formed of F-15s found stored at a "satellite" base part of the Area 51 complex. They are in a grave state of disrepair and several have to be cannibalized to make the others flightworthy, so that only about 8 fly in the actual battle. The rest of the force is formed from what ever they can find, including Russian fighters (acquired through various means during the Cold War for study at Area 51, Truth in Television actually), and even World War II fighters, a P-51 is mentioned. Also during the battle the planes are split into 2 groups: the shooters, modern American plans, and the decoys, Russian planes and other planes for which ammunition did not exist on base. The latter group was meant to go in first, attract the attention of the alien fighters and draw them off, allowing the former group to close in and open fire.
    • Fridge Brilliance: given the movie's theme of humanity uniting in the face of extraterrestrial aggressors, the idea of Britain operating its air force out of Iraq seems less ridiculous: one has a target, the other has the necessary hardware, and it's either co-operate in the name of survival or hang separately. But that doesn't explain the F-16s, though, which the RAF does not (and has never) operate.
      • Again the novelizations gets this right. The RAF pilots where flying Saudi marked Tornadoes, which they where delivering to the Saudi Air Force before all hell broke loose and they where forced to land on a dry lake-bed in the middle of the dessert together with fighters from every Air Force in the Middle East. The Fridge Brilliance is lampshaded in the book when one of the RAF pilots remarks on the impressive and impossible sight of Israeli F-15s parked next to Syrian Migs, and Iraqi fighters parked next to Iranians, when just two days before everyone of those fighters would have shot at every-other fighter present, except, maybe, those belonging to his Air Force.
  • Asteroid movie (proof of It's Popular, Now It Sucks theory). Laser (judging by its size, geodesic; and of course, with ray visible in space) fastened onto F-16, manually aimed at megameter or so and blows up big asteroid. Though one could argue that it would be pure Snark Bait even with Pentagon's "realistic" solution—experimental laser cannon on Boeing 747, which at least could take out missile or aircraft. As opposed to plain and sane original idea: arrange meeting of damn stone and little fusion device, the higher orbit the better, then watch some Stuff Blowing Up.
  • Toward the end of the rescue in the 1986 movie The Delta Force, a Boeing 707 is shown practically bulletproof in that it takes fire from Kalashnikov rifles as it is taking off only to have the bullets apparently glance off its metal skin. In real life, such a plane's relatively thin aluminum skin would be perforated and the plane rendered unsafe or unable to fly. There's also the issue of supposedly USAF C-130s having Israeli Air Force numbers (since the C-130s were leased from the Israeli military for the film), but that issue is quite minor and easily overlooked compared to the Bulletproof Boeing.
  • Midway was made with essentially no special-effects budget. One effect of this is that flying scenes are done with whatever Stock Footage they could get their hands on. It's common for airplanes to change model in mid-flight; the most Egregious example is an airplane that makes its landing approach as a twin-propeller-engine dive-bomber, but crashes onto the carrier's flight deck as a single-engine jet fighter (a McDonnell Banshee).
    • Not helped by the appearance of Corsairs, with wouldn't enter service even with the Marines for about a year, being "present", either...
  • Despite the support of the the U.S. Military, the movie Transformers, contains a number of errors. An AC-130U Spooky gunship is used to take down the Decepticon Scorponok using "105 sabot rounds". The AC-130 is armed with a 105 mm howitzer, but there is no such thing as a sabot round for this type of weapon. Later, F-22 Raptors were used to attack the Decepticons during the final battle using laser guided air-to-ground missiles. In real life, the F-22 cannot carry any laser guided missiles; it is designed to use GPS guided bombs for air-to-ground attacks.
    • Also, freaking jet powered Predator. While the C variant of the Predator is jet powered, it also has substantially redesigned wings and fuselage. Putting a jet engine in a Predator B frame and putting it through the manuvers in the movie would probably have snapped the wings off.
  • Charlie Wilson's War used stock footage to depict Soviet fighters getting shot down. In several scenes, the fighters are obviously either F-16s or foreign variants, not Soviet planes.
  • In The Great Waldo Pepper, two relatively common Tiger Moth biplanes were wrecked in the crash scenes, standing in for the much rarer Standard J-1. Ironically, most sources about the film mistakenly identify the Standard J-1s actually used in the movie as the smaller (but more famous) Curtis JN-1 "Jenny". Tallmantz aviation, like most real Barnstormers, preferred the Standard because it was larger, stronger, and used a more reliable engine.
  • In Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, the opening sequence features Ace climbing some Alpine-looking mountains, dressed in suspenders and shorts often stereotypically portrayed on Swiss alpinists, and there is a helicopter flying around him painted in crimson red with a white cross at each side—the symbol and flag of Switzerland. The aircraft's tail number (license plate)? Canadian registration. Location shooting indeed...
  • Executive Decision features what is blatantly an F-117 stealth fighter that has somehow been modified to hold a sort of air-to-air docking collar while still having space for half a dozen armed commandos and the pilot, making the passenger compartment at least as large as the entire hull, leaving no space for engines, fuel tanks, or anything else. Apparently, the USAF has developed TARDIS technology.
  • In True Lies the portrayal of the Harrier jet is highly erroneous. Harriers are not designed to hover as long as it did in the film, are not bulletproof, and would be unflyable if it got its instrument panel shot up like it did. More than Justified Trope, however, by Rule of Cool.
    • Also, exactly how does Arnold avoid getting sucked into the intake & fodding the damn engine?
      • Because he's Arnold.
  • In The Rock, a flight of Air Force F/A-18 Hornets are sent on a bombing mission when it appears that the heroes have failed to neutralize the threat. The Air Force does not use F/A-18s in real life; only the Navy and the Marine Corps do. This was strange considering that the rest of the movie focused on the Marines and Navy.
  • Averted in, of all things, Dr. Strangelove: not only was the B-52 correct in exterior shots (save for casting the shadow of a B-17), the B-52 arming console shown was so accurate that the Air Force freaked out (the design of the console was still classified). As it happened, Kubrick and his crew had simply done an amazing job of extrapolation.
  • In Goldeneye, the real Eurocopter Tiger cannot survive an EMP and cannot lock missiles onto itself. The MC at the demonstration where it is stolen announces it as a prototype with new features.
  • The Concorde: Airport '79 (also known as Airport 80 for some reason because it wasn't released until 1980 in some countries) was full of such howlers:
    • When the Concorde is being chased by heat-seeking missiles, George Kennedy opens a window in the cockpit, then leans out into the onrushing supersonic air and fires a flare gun. The force should have ripped the window housing open, and torn Kennedy's arm off.
    • In the course of dodging the heat-seeking missiles, the Concorde's engines flame out. The plane immediately nosedives straight down, plummeting like a rock. In the real world, when an airliner (even a supersonic one) loses power, it becomes a glider. It won't have the best glide performance in the world, but it's still going to be gliding, not falling (this was how Air Canada Flight 143 managed to make it to Gimli Industrial Park Airport while out of fuel).
    • Not to mention lining up with the runway a few km short of threshold, and only then does anyone (including airport tower) notice there's a multicoloured hot air balloon over the runway. Or the F-4 Phantom pilot somehow failing to shoot down an airliner with either missiles or guns for four entire minutes. Or a civilian runway equipped with barricade webbing large enough for an entire airliner. Or continuing the flight a few hours after two independent attempts to shoot down the plane (one a supposed accident, but the other involving a fucking fighter plane going after it) plus making an emergency landing and barely averting a runway overrun. Or the magic door-opening machine that punches in an access code by making the keypad push itself. Or that the same device also somehow operates the Concorde's fuel jettison pumps from the cargo bay.
    • There's also the Call a Rabbit a Smeerp of the "Buzzard Attack Drone." We generally call a target-seeking UCAV which carries a single warhead a missile, guys.
  • Averted in Catch-22: The legendary Hollywood stunt pilot Frank Tallman put together an entire squadron of 24 B-25 bombers for the film. Even the camera plane was a B-25 with a special optical glass nose.
  • Stealth
    • The F-37s would never be able to take off from a carrier. Aside from being based on a somewhat dubious concept aircraft which would likely have trouble transitioning between wing angles, there's the minor issue that they're apparently all but VTOL-capable, swing-wing CATOBAR aircraft with comically gigantic missile loadouts and utterly insane range; there's no way an aircraft with such a laundry list of capabilities would be able to take off from a standard Nimitz catapult, and it's doubtful if it could do so at all, especially not with the stated empty weight of nine metric tons for a 70-foot aircraft. And even if all that weren't true, there's the small matter of their rear landing gear being secured to the carrier's deck with tie-down chains when they're on the catapult. Although it's worth mentioning Northrop-Grumann believed the aerodynamic concept might be feasible and as such has taken steps to ensure they had complete control over the forward swept swing wing design for the next two decades by patenting it in 2000.
    • There's also the infamous exploding plane scene, where Jessica Biel punches out seconds before her plane explodes (it's not clear why, since she had a long countdown during which she stayed in the plane) and a massive, ridiculous cloud of burning wreckage proceeds to chase her. The sheer amount of wreckage rather suggests she was carrying a C-130 in her internal bay.
    • Slightly less obvious but equally hilarious case is how titular characters (planes, that is) are shown to outfly Su-37's using exactly the kind of cool supermaneuver those very Su-37s introduce in real life. Somewhy russkies only know to flight in straight lines in the scene. At least the film miraclously get su-37's right (apart from 27's).
  • Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus actually has a shapeshifting fighter jet due to the poor use of stock footage. In one shot the jet is an F-15, in another shot it is an F/A-18, and in yet another shot the same jet is an F-22.
  • The problem of acquiring Soviet bloc aircraft prior to the end of the Cold War is also encountered with helicopters. Ersatz Soviet helicopters include:
    • A View to a Kill: the Soviet helicopter that chases Bond in the pre-title sequence is a (West) German MBB-105.
    • Rambo First Blood II and Rambo III: the Soviet helicopter is a French Aérospatiale SA 330 Puma, fitted with cosmetic modifications (most obviously the stub wings with rocket pods) to a decent semblance of a Mil-24 "Hind A." The fake front fuselage apparently made it stunningly hard to actually fly.
      • SA 330s stood in for Hind-As in Red Dawn, as well.
      • Yes. But in Red Dawn they actually got close to early model Hinds at least in the forward fuselage. Check out the early model Hind vs the fake Hind from Red Dawn.
    • The Beast of War: a French-built, Israeli-operated Aérospatiale Super Frélon stands in for the Soviet Mil-8 "Hip".
  • Rare aversion in The Incredibles: Elasti-girl's radio dialogue when the missiles are closing in on her plane is actually accurate, save repeated misuse of the term "Buddy Spike."
    • To clarify: "Buddy spike" is used by a friendly aircraft to reassure the "spiked" target that the lock was from a friendly and can be disregarded.
      • Actually, it's a way of saying "stop locking on to me. I'm on your side."
  • A less egregious but more obvious example is from Beyond the Time Barrier, where the F-102 changes side numbers between takeoff & landing. (The effects of jumping ahead in time?)
  • Early on in The A-Team, Murdock flies a helicopter as if it were a plane, notably performing a barrel roll with apparent ease, angling the nose of the helicopter upward to "pull up" and stalling to the point of tumbling out of the air, but managing to recover. Which is precisely to point out how Crazy Awesome he is. The best part is, in order to evade a heat-seeking missile, Murdock switches off the engine of the helicopter for a moment—the fact that there would still be a significant heat signature notwithstanding.
    • Heat seeking missiles target the hot metal of the aircraft, not the exhaust, so turning off the engines wouldn't do anything.
      • Modern heat seeking missiles are all-aspect (meaning they can target an aircraft from any angle). Early heat-seeking missiles, like many versions of the Sidewinder (the AIM-9B, 9D, 9E, 9G, 9H, 9J, 9N, and 9P), were rear-aspect missiles, meaning they had to lock onto the exhaust of an enemy aircraft to provide the best chance of hitting. They were very easily distracted by flares, or even the sun. Therefore, if the missile were one of the older rear-aspect types, it is possible (but unlikely) that turning off the engine and doing a hammerhead stall would have caused it to lose its target lock. The mystery is how Murdock would have known the missile was a rear-aspect type. For the sake of completeness, note that the AIM-9L was the first all-aspect Sidewinder, followed by the -9M in 1982 and the -9X in late 2003.
  • Casino Royale has the prototype "Skyfleet S570", possibly intended as a Bland-Name Product version of the then-new Airbus A380. The actual plane we see, however, is obviously a Boeing 747 with external fuel tanks hanging from the wings. This makes very little sense for any civilian aircraft.
    • Specifically, it's the decommissioned 747 that lives on the Top Gear test track.
    • In fairness, it does differ from a normal 747 in that it has only two engine nacelles, each holding a pair of engines, and the external fuel tanks. They did try.
  • Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade — the German Fighters shown in the film are not period planes but Swiss-made Pilatus P-2 aircraft built after World War II.
  • In Superman Returns, Lex Luthor is stranded on an island with an out-of-fuel helicopter, and wishes he had just a quart of gasoline. The helicopter in question, however, was an AW109, which has twin turboshaft engines. Turboshafts are to helicopters what turboprops are to airplanes, and like the latter, they run on Jet-A (kerosene), not avgas (gasoline).
  • In Interceptor Force 2, the Russian fighters are called Mi G-29s. They're really Mi G-25s.
  • Interceptor (1993). Oh, where to start. Supersonic, highly-agile F-117s that launch Sidewinder missiles out of the nose gear wheel well AND have folding wings? Check. Oh, those wings can deploy in flight after falling out of the back of a C-5. Also, the engines can somehow start by themselves without pneumatics, AND somehow not have a compressor stall during the aforementioned free fall. Then there's the KC-10 that the bad guys use to board the C-5 in flight, by sliding down the inside of the refueling boom and cutting through the fuselage above the crew rest compartment. If you were being EXTREMELY generous you could pretend that the bad guys had gotten a DC-10 that they modified to carry out their clever ruse, I guess. Then there's the C-5, where 90% of the movie takes place. Apparently they were allowed to film the scenes on a real C-5, but no C-5 has all the air ducts and crawlspaces that this one has. The terrorists also siphon fuel from the 5 to the 117s from inside the cargo bay, in flight. And at the climax, it is blown up with a Sidewinder. Empty fuel tanks notwithstanding, a C-5 has taken a missile hit on takeoff in real life, and only lost the engine the missile was locked on to. It circled around and landed safely.
  • In the film version of The Hunt for Red October, Robby Jackson's crash is changed rather significantly from the book, becoming only a very minor point with an entirely different cause. That's understandable given the movie's time constraints; less understandable is the use of Stock Footage to depict the crash of a F-14 Tomcat on a modern carrier...StockFootage that shows the Korean War crash of a F9F Panther on a straight-deck carrier. Oi vey.
  • In Red Tails, the all-black 332d Pursuit Group is depicted as upgrading from their older Curtiss P-40 Warhawks to shiny new North American P-51D Mustangs. In Real Life, they transitioned first to the Bell P-39 Airacobra (for all of a month or so), then to the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt, and then to the North American P-51C Mustang. The most identifiable difference between the C and D models of the Mustang is that the C has a conventional "razorback" canopy more reminiscent of the P-40 Warhawk, while the D has the bubble canopy that the fighters are most often depicted with.
  • In Sudden Death, the villain's JetRanger tilts back and goes vertically down into the stadium with its tail straight down and nose up in one of the silliest-looking copter crashes ever filmed. This is impossible with the rotors still spinning. Since they provide lift, upon going nose-up the JetRanger should've just spun out of control backwards due to the force of the rotor wash now pushing horizontally instead of vertically. In addition, the rate of descent is ridiculously slow - a full 58 seconds from when it first starts descending to when its tail first hits the ice.
  • In Catch Me If You Can, a pilot refers to "runway 44" when landing at LaGuardia Airport in New York City. Runways are numbered after their magnetic heading divided by ten, and an angle can only be 360 degrees maximum (for a full circular rotation), so a "runway 44" is not possible anywhere in the world. (LaGuardia's actual runways are numbered 04/22 and 13/31 respectively).


  • Tom Clancy's book Red Storm Rising, telling the story of a fictional Soviet invasion of Western Europe, makes much of the stealth capabilities of the F-19A "Ghostrider". At the time of writing, the F-117 "Nighthawk" (the triangular thing you think of as the Stealth Fighter) was very secret and still on the drawing board. Clancy's description is the polar opposite of what it ended up looking like in real life. A Testors model kit of the rumored F-19 was even made, and versions of the plane are featured in some air combat games. Linky.
    • Monogram also brought out a model of the "F-19 Specter" based on a Loral Inc. stealth fighter design that was seen most frequently in their advertising. It looked even less like the F-117 than the Testors design.
    • Looks aside, however, the employment of the Ghostriders was very close to how the F-117s were used in real life.
      • Except for their initial mission, which features them in an air-to-air role, shooting down Soviet AWACS aircraft, with air-to-air missiles stored in at least one internal weapons bay like the F-22 and F-35. The "F-19s" were also two-seaters, whereas the F-117 and the models were always single-seaters.
  • 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.
  • In Matthew Reilly's Seven Ancient Wonders series, the protagonists 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 teams resident Badass Israeli can fire a Barett .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. Don't ask us how that works.

Live Action TV

  • The landing sequence in The A-Team from the episode The Beast from the Belly of the Boeing was largely accurate for a TV show, though it did make some notable mistakes. Murdock tells Hannibal to put the plane in a shallow dive to descend, which is not what airliners generally do. Airliners rarely dive when descending, and certainly won't be losing airspeed while in a shallow dive. Airliners generally just cut back on the engines to descend, and the reduced airspeed reduces lift and lets the plane drop (and often with spoilers partly deployed). The team also forget to deploy spoilers after touchdown, and despite being completely out of fuel Murdock tells them to reverse the thrusters, which is absolutely useless if they engine isn't producing any thrust. Also, although a Boeing 747-100/200 was used as the main plane, a few of the stock footage taxi scenes show engine nacelles from a 707.
  • In The Sixties, Doctor Who seemed to use rocket stock footage in every other serial. This dropped off in later years, but didn't die off completely until nearly the end of the original run. Perhaps the most blatant offender is the Vogan "Skystriker" missile from the Doctor Who episode "Revenge of the Cybermen", which is obviously a US Saturn V. And by "obviously" we mean "It has 'NASA' painted on the side in big, easily legible letters."
    • In "The Big Bang", there is a scene showing a small video reel showing the journey of the Pandorica from Stonehenge to London. The video ends with the Blitz in 1941. The "German" bombers shown in the clip are actually American B-17 Flying Fortresses—in fact, the closest bomber has the American, 1943-45 vintage USAAF roundel on the wing.
    • Although this may have been intentional, due to the episode's theme being "time is all messed up". The next exhibit was called "Penguins of the Nile".
  • In addition to lifting scenes from Destination Moon, the second episode of Time Tunnel used an Atlas rocket to represent the launch of a mission to Mars.
  • Averted when Donald P. Bellisario actually did do the research for the pilot episode of Quantum Leap. He went scouting for a Bell X-2, only to presumably be told that both the X-2's were destroyed in crashes so he'd have to make a replica. The full-scale fiberglass replica he had built is on display at Chino airport's Planes of Fame air museum, unfortunately quite worse for the weather since it's been stored outside for years, sans wings.
  • Black Sheep Squadron used slightly-modified North American AT-6 trainer aircraft (different cockpit canopies) as Mitsubishi A6M "Zeros"/"Zekes". The AT-6 is a noticeably larger and somewhat differently-shaped aircraft than a Zero.
  • Dark Skies used a Redstone-Mercury to represent a Gemini launch despite Gemini stock footage being widely available.
  • Father Ted: in "Flight into Terror", external shots show a BAe 146, but interior shots are of a wide-body aircraft.
  • Airwolf:
    • The first part of the pilot has an aircraft described as a French Mirage and shown as such on the chopper's target ID screen with accurate side-drawing, but the Stock Footage is of a completely different aircraft—quite possibly the British Hawker Hunter. To give you an idea of the size of the error, the Hunter is two generations of fighter aircraft older, i.e. late first-generation (mid 1950s) and subsonic. The Mirage is a third-gen, late 1960s aircraft, capable of exceeding Mach 2. The Mirage also has a large, triangular "delta" wing, and looks nothing like the Hunter.
    • Another episode features F-4s in service with the government of Suriana, a country in Latin Land. The F-4 was not exported to any state there and considering the instability of that country, it would not be high on the export list.
    • In one episode, Stock Footage of F-4s play F-16s. Rather different aircraft.
    • "Fallen Angel" has MiG-17s (one tail) playing MiG-25s (much younger two-tailed aircraft). While footage of the "Foxbat" may have been hard to acquire in 1985, that's not even trying. The aircraft is described as carrying "Arid" missiles, which appears to be a misspelling of "Acrid", the reporting name for the R-40/AA-6 missiles, which the aircraft could carry.
    • "Echoes of the Past" has, for some reason, an F-100 Super Sabre pop up in a shot that's meant to be of two MiG-19s. The two are similar in appearance and function (both were their country's first supersonic fighters).
    • "To Snare an Airwolf" has a US satellite launch done with footage of a Saturn V launch—and the actual satellite using a clip of Skylab, which had re-entered the atmosphere in 1979, five years before the episode was made.
  • The military-legal show JAG has many, many, many examples of this trope in practically every episode dealing with aircraft. There was a scene where some attack chopper was supposed to be firing machine guns. The noise was right, but the heli was really firing rockets from a pod. They were probably used in place of the guns because machine guns firing look quite boring in real life, as opposed to foot-long flaming "bullets". Oh, and here's a suggestion: if playing a JAG Drinking Game, drinking whenever a plane changes model in flight will get you drunk quick smart.
  • In the NCIS episode "Agent Afloat", an F/A-18 on USS Seahawk switches to an F-14 between shots. The F-14 had retired from USN service before the episode was made.
    • The first season episode "High Seas" features a US Navy SH-60 Seahawk quite clearly crewed by Australians.
  • Jetstream, a documentary series on the training of Canadian fighter pilots, constantly has the announcer refer to the aircraft as the "F-18 Hornet". That was the original designation, but only Finland appears to use it. The US calls it the F/A-18 and the Canadian single-seater version is officially the CF-188A, but more usually called the CF-18A.
    • This is technically an error, but a forgivable one; as almost no-one (even its pilots) bothers calling it the F/A-18 in colloquial speech. This is common with with other aircraft that have complex or unpopular official tri-service designations. Generally when referring to these aircraft, people will use the shorter (but technically incorrect) designation, or its common service name. For example, almost no-one calls the A-10 the "thunderbolt II". It is universally known as either the A-10, or the "hawg" or "warthog". The "F/A-18 Hornet" is more commonly known as "the bug" or "the plastic bug" etc...
  • Smallville once featured a character taking a trip by private jet. When shown on the ground it was a Bae 125. The shot of it en route showed it had suddenly acquired a third engine and looked like a Falcon 50. It then got into trouble and plummeted Earthwards and turned into a Cessna before coming to rest as wreckage that looked like a Lear.
  • In the TV-movie The Six Million Dollar Man, Steve Austin goes up in an HL-10 lifting body, but crashes in a M2-F2.
    • In a later episode of the TV series, he pilots what's supposed to be the same aircraft yet again. This time, they show a Bell X-2 rocket plane. In the script, Steve Austin calls the plane the "X-PJ-1". (Perhaps the script writer was wearing pajamas at the time.)
    • In another episode of the TV series, he's shown taking off in an F-4 Phantom II, flying around in a Northrop F-5, and landing in an F-104 Star Fighter. This scene was supposedly showing us a single flight.
  • In the second season of Greatest American Hero, an episode called, The Hand-Painted Thai had scenes from the Vietnam War that were supposed to be taking place in 1970. In one of the scenes, you see an F-16 dropping bombs. The problem is that the F-16 never saw service in Vietnam. In fact, the F-16's first flight wasn't until a few years after this scene was supposed to take place.
  • The final episode of Studio 60 On the Sunset Strip has off-screen F-14s scrambling out of Bagram in Afghanistan. Again, they had retired before the episode was made.
  • Myth Busters plane on a conveyor belt. Even after the common theory about it was busted, people still complained that they did it wrong. The initial question: if a plane was attempting to take off on a conveyor belt designed to go in the opposite way at the same speed, would it take off? General public consensus: No, it wouldn't, because the wheels would be locked in place by the conveyor belt, just like a car would be in that situation. Apparently, billions of people forget that a plane's wheels are free-spinning, and that it gets its thrust entirely through its engines, thus would have very little if any impact on it from the treadmill.
    • This misconception has two parts to it: 1. Could a plane that is kept stationary by a conveyor belt take off? No, of course not. 2. Can a conveyor belt actually keep a plane stationary? No, because it's not driven by the wheels. Technically, I suppose it's possible if the conveyor belt moves insanely fast to create enough friction in the wheel's bearings, but I suspect you'll set the wheels on fire before you manage to keep the plane in place. It's this second part that people have trouble with because of the car/plane confusion. If you ever get into a discussion about this, make sure you know which part of the question everyone is trying to argue.
  • Entirely averted on Top Gear, due in large part to 1. presenter James May holding a private pilot's license in his own right and being a total aviation nerd (witness his excitement at finding the Albanian MiG boneyard "It's a two seater version from the Korean war... I believe that will have been built in China") and 2. the coolness of certain stunts being based on the performance of a car vs. the legitimate capabilities of [insert name of Cool Plane or Cool Helicopter here].
  • Averted in the Twilight Zone episode "The Odyssey of Flight 33". Rod Serling used his brother Robert, who was an aviation writer, and an airline-pilot friend as sources for the cockpit dialogue.
  • Particularly jarring to anyone with half a brain in Jericho, where the main character reports seeing a Tuplov "Bear" and some escorts, when the plane in question is clearly is a C-130 Hercules, the single longest produced military aircraft of all time.
  • Air Crash Investigation, you can guess what it's about, has a tendency to fall into this as well. One example is in the episode "Bomb on Board", which recycles the same clip for taking off and landing with the thrust reversers deployed. Another episode about the Tenerife disaster, which involved a collision between two 747s, Pan Am and KLM, introduces the KLM plane with a shot of it in flight...with winglets, identifying it as a 747-400, which at the time of the disaster (1977) would not be put into production for another 11 years.
    • In one episode, it is clear that the people making the show believe that any twinjet in an American Airlines livery must be an A300.
  • In The Comic Strip Presents episode "Four Men in a Plane", our heroes take off for the middle east in a four-engined airliner, but when they land it's only got two engines. (It's not the plane of the title, by the way—that is a single-engined light aircraft.)
  • There's a rocket example in an episode of Blakes Seven. Establishing model shots of the rocket are clearly based on the Russian Soyuz design, but the actual launch footage is of an American rocket. Presumably the producers were planning to use stock Soviet launch footage but either couldn't get it or thought it was of insufficient quality.
  • Bizarrely, The BBC adaptation of The Machine Gunners changes the downed bomber from which the machine gun is stolen from a Heinkel He 111 to a Junkers Ju 52. Guess which one of these German aircraft wasn't in service as a bomber during 1941.


  • Cabin Pressure averts this: the writer obviously does lots of research.

Tabletop Games

  • As it's prone to doing, Warhammer 40000 takes this Up to Eleven; depending on the source, those stumpy Imperial fighters with leading edges a scale foot thick and bombers that look like the bastard offspring of a B-17 and an Abrams are single step to orbit spaceships which are just as at home fighting in the vacuum of space as they are in atmosphere. Even whatever this is can hit escape velocity, because air resistance is heresy.
    • Most are modeled to resemble WWII propeller fighters but with jets instead of propellers, yet they supposedly can achieve speeds in excess of Mach 2. Take the Imperial Navy's air fighters. Real world aerodynamics would conspire to prevent this (though ridiculously tough 40K materials in turn would conspire to prevent real life aerodynamics); though enough brute force can make anything fly, it has rather greater trouble making anything turn (you don't put the engine in the front in supersonic fighters, because it 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, this entry would reach monstrous proportions (well, more monstrous then it already has). The only aircraft that could maybe fly, and that's a very big maybe, are the Eldar and Tau. And that excludes that Tau dropship that looks like gussied-up cinderblock, obviously.
      • The Ork planes don't fly because they make sense, they fly because the Ork themselves think they can fly, in the same manner their trukks run faster when painted red.
    • Also, let's hear it for the Thunderhawk, an SSTO troop transporter with a scale 16-inch spinal gun that isn't under any kind of faring and is only capable of firing above the aircraft. This along with the slender midsection presumably makes the Thunderhawk the only troop aircraft to be able to land infantry in two places at the same time.
      • It banks in order to fire the gun at ground targets.
    • It's probably worth remembering that the Imperials, Eldar and Tau have anti-gravity technology, and the last two make extensive use of it. It's probably safe to say that this technology negates the need for aerodynamic structures somehow.
      • Eldar and Tau are not so big offenders. And while the Imperials use anti-gravity technology the fluff for the last three editions clearly states that it's used only}} on the Land Speeder. Besides no amount of anti-gravity will prevent air-resistance, and the problem with Imperial aircraft is that they are not streamlined enough to reach their Mach 2+ maximum velocities given in fluff.
      • If anything the Eldar are even worse. Although they might be more streamlined that the Imperials (which is like saying Big Ben is "more streamlined" than Edinburgh Castle), they are not streamlined enough to reach the top speeds given in fluff. One source has them moving at Mach 12.

Video Games

  • Battlefield games tend to have slightly silly flight models (the original's planes tend to practically leap into the air), while later games have them rather too tough (Desert Combat's AC-130 can fly straight through the factory chimneys at El Al, while BF2's helicopters can survive a direct hit from a main battle tank) and with Easy Logistics in full swing (helicopters can re-arm by hovering over runways, planes just by flying over them; this is generally regarded as a fairly serious Game Breaker since it means they require no support of any kind). The pilot of a multi-seat aircraft can also instantly teleport between seats; skilled players sometimes use this in helicopters to fire TV-guided missiles despite having no gunner.
    • A glaringly obvious example of this trope is in Battlefield: Bad Company 2 where Haggard incorrectly identifies an Antonov An-124 that the game's Big Bad uses as the Antonov An-225. Possibly justified, because Haggard isn't the sharpest tool in the shed.
    • During the Battlefield 3 Single Player mission in which the player character is a Radar Intercept Officer aboard an F-18, one of the later mission objects orders the player to "Take out remaining Mi Gs". The airborne enemies encountered during this mission are clearly Sukhoi Su-27 Flankers, not Mi Gs.
    • The trailer for the updated version of the Gulf of Oman map for BF3 shows Marine variant F-35 fighter jets using their VTOL capability to act as impromptu attack helicopters. A real F-35 would be incapable of doing this without wasting a ton of fuel.
  • Splinter Cell has a few examples of playing this trope straight. In the first title, Georgia is depicted as having what looks like either a MiG-29 or a Su-27, neither of which are correct. Additionally, the depiction of the interior dimensions of the V-22 Osprey are noticeably generous to anyone who has actually stepped foot in one. (Large computer bank on each wall with room to move comfortably in between? Not likely...)
  • Mostly averted in the Ace Combat series, though there are occasional oddities—in the real world, the Su-47 Berkut is a tech demo, and only one exists. In the games, multiple Su-47s are flown in battle by the various sides, all the way up to whole squadrons using the model, like Gault in The Belkan War. Also subverted on occasion, however; for example, both the X-02 Wyvern and the ADF-01 Falken superfighters, which look implausibly cool, have been modeled in the realistic flight sim X-Plane and successfully proven to be airworthy under modern flight knowledge limitations. This far from stops fanboys of Glorious Mother Yuktobania Estovakia Russia insisting in YouTube comments that no pesky Usean Emmerian American jet should be able to keep up with their beloved MiGs and Sukhois, never mind score a gunkill. The heresy!
    • The in-game descriptions for the jets occasionally fall into this; for example, Shattered Skies refers to a number of planes as having "forward-swept" wings — the above-mentioned Su-47 and X-02 are the only jets in the game that feature them.
    • Very minor case in Ace Combat 2, where an F-22's thrust vectoring is shown off, but its engines point in different directions (this would indicate 3-dimensional thrust vectoring, the F-22 only has 2-dimensional).
    • The main reason that the game can give a seemingly limitless supply of Super Prototypes and Tech Demonstrators to enemy and friendly fighter squadron is because it takes place in alternate universe where the possibilities of such aircraft entering active service with any military are perfectly reasonable.
  • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 falls into this trap by showing F-15s in "The Gulag" mission but later referring to the Navy as bombing the gulag. The Navy uses F/A-18s and eventually will use F-35s for combat missions. Apparently the developers didn't want to bother modeling another aircraft. It's also rather sad considering Call of Duty 4 correctly showed the Marines getting their air support from SuperCobras and Harriers.
    • Call of Duty 4 also features Mi-24 Hind attack helicopters in Chernobyl's vehicle graveyards. No such aircraft are present in the real graveyards.
      • This is most likely a reference to STALKER, which also erroneously features Hinds in the vehicle graveyards.
    • Modern Warfare 2 also had a chronic case of Easy Logistics, with magical transatlantic Havocs probably the biggest example.
    • Call Of Duty World At War gets this wrong on occasion. The worst example would be from the beginning of the Soviet campaign, where "German bombers" are seen flying over Stalingrad in a Blitz-style air-raid. Quite apart from the fact that the Germans did not use saturation bombing on Stalingrad at that point in the battle (you know, with their own men inside the city and everything), the planes featured are Focke-Wulf Fw 200s, which were primarily naval reconnaissance and patrol aircraft, and had small bomb bays. Whilst Fw 200s were deployed to Stalingrad, but only as transport aircraft making up part of Goering's idiotic "air bridge". They were likely used in the game because they had four engines, and thus looked more intimidating than the Dornier Do 17s and Heinkel He 111s that would actually have been used. If the Germans had ever been serious about strategic bombing, they would have used He 177 "Greif" heavy bombers, certainly not maritime patrol aircraft.
    • Call of Duty Black Ops has U-2 spyplanes in multiplayer, which can be hit from the ground with small-arms fire. The actual U2s were designed specifically to fly so high that then-existing anti-aircraft weaponry couldn't reach them. There is no in-game justification for why they would be flying so low, it's pure game balance.
    • Modern Warfare 3's second mission starts with a transmission from F-22 pilots preparing for a bombing run, but then cut to the actual mission and said bombing is carried out by, once again, F-15s.
  • A carrier appears at the end of Prototype with F-22's and Apache helicopters are shown sitting on the flight deck. The problem being that the Navy uses neither of these. The Air Force uses F-22s (there is no Naval [read:Carrier landing] variant planned) and the Apache is used only by the Army. The Navy also doesn't give up it's flight deck space to the other services when they have their own aircraft to use. If the game is really set a few years in the future, then the deck could be covered in the similar-looking and planned-to-be-ubiquitous F-35 and the Apaches could be handwaved as the Marines finally replacing the ageing Super Cobra, but it probably isn't.
    • They also don't use Blackhawks, so the ubiquitous transports should be upgraded Hueys, or if it's really the future, V-22 Osprey tilt-rotors. There are also, incidentally, no Bradley IFVs in the Marine inventory. So if they'd just name-swapped the Army for the Marines in dialogue, almost everything would work fine. Except the carrier.
  • This trope is averted thoroughly in the World War II combat flight simulator series Il-2 Sturmovik.
    • The demo of the same studio's next flight sim, "Birds of Steel" doesn't do as well, with the narrator of the tutorial at one point telling you to fire the "afterburners" on your P-47 Thunderbolt, a single-engined propellor plane, which, due to the mechanics of piston-engined planes, could never be fitted with an afterburner, even if they had been invented when the game was set.
  • DiD's 80s flight sim F-29 Retaliator has some rather odd quirks; for a start, the poster plane is actually the F-22, the game having been mis-announced by Ocean's notoriously fearsome CEO and nobody wanting to correct him (mirroring the urban legend about the SR-71's name). The YF-22 wouldn't fly until a year after the game came out, so the aircraft is based on concept art that closely resembles the much later MiG 1.44 prototype. But that's not even the start of the silliness.
    • You are still in full control of your plane after ejecting from it. You can even kill yourself by bringing the plane around and crashing it into the descending pilot sprite.
    • Landing gear raises instantly. It's possible to kill yourself the second a mission starts by pressing G (yes, a six foot drop is a fatal crash; apparently your plane is made from blasting caps and dynamite); have fun, since you want to press F and B to extend flaps and disengage the parking brake.
    • Landing normally is virtually impossible thanks to the game being designed with a digital joystick in mind and still letting you destroy your landing gear if you come in at the wrong angle. The game will court-martial you for a game over if you eject over the runway three times (most 80s flight sims had to take aggressive steps to stop players ejecting instead of landing). The only reliable method of landing is to reduce engine power to almost nothing and stall your way down to the runway. With the wheel brakes engaged, this actually allows you to stop cold the instant the wheels touch the ground. Who needs a runway anyway?
  • In Metal Gear Solid 3 Volgin has a great number of Mi-24 Hind helicopters under his command, but the game takes place in 1964, six years before the helicopter went into production and even the first prototype was still very early in development. To give the designers some credit, the helicopters are the early Hind-A version with the polygonal canopy, instead of the iconic bubble canopy of the Hind-D and later models, making it an example of Rare Helicopters. It's also worth noting that the game explains that Volgin has priority access to what was at the time the cutting edge of soviet equipment, and in an Codec conversation you find out that this is the first time anyone from the West has encountered the design, and it turns out that Snake was the one who initially suggested the Hind callsign.
    • The game's designers deserve quite a bit of credit, as most of the 'wacky designs' for vehicles in the game (save the Shagohod, which is classically Awesome but Impractical in traditional Metal Gear fashion) are drawn from rare but existing real life prototypes and models, such as the M21 insertion drone used by Naked Snake at the start of Operation Snake Eater and the Bartini Beriev WIG which appears in the ending scenes. Even the science-fiction-style hovering platforms used by patrols in some areas are based on real prototypes, proving once again that Reality Is Unrealistic.
  • Averted hard' by X-Plane. While flight sims are generally pretty good at getting it right X-planes attention to detail and real-world flight physics is so incredibly accurate it can be used, along with the right hardware, for getting one's FAA certification. That's right, they've shown so much work that many countries' aviation regulators agree it's just like flying a real airplane.
  • Tom Clancy's HAWX starts out with the retirement flight of the titular Air Force squadron flying F/A-18 Hornets.
    • The first game also prevented planes from slowing down to below 1000 km/h in Assistance OFF mode. Even though this could have exceeded the never-exceed velocity of some slower planes. Even includes all planes breaking the sound barrier, which in real life could have shattered some of the planes. The second game fixes that, allowing the plane to stall even in Assistance ON mode, though the flight computer makes it more difficult to do so.
    • When in Assistance OFF mode, the player is able to stall the plane out. It indeed does start plummeting immediately, but in fairness a stall is more likely to happen when the player is flying extremely slowly while turning a lot. Where it falls into this trope is that, if the player decides to stay in that state for the hell of it by keeping the plane level with the ground and holding the airbrakes, his plane will start to fly backwards. This was fixed in the sequel.
    • In a reversal of the original point, at one point the player character defects from the Artemis PMC back to the US military. He does so while defending a naval group, who suggests clearing a space on their aircraft carrier for them to land, even though it's possible (and likely, given the game's suggested plane for the mission) that the player is not flying a jet capable of landing on a carrier.
    • The F-15 S/MTD is treated as though it has thrust-vectoring. While this would be true of the real-world model, the in-game model is, save for the addition of canards, identical to that of the F-15C. Which is even more incorrect - if anything, it should have an identical model to the F-15E, but that plane too does not have a unique model in-game.
      • The Mi G-25 Foxbat in the game is exactly the same as the Mi G-31 Foxhound.
  • Aerobiz: Though most aircraft have historically accurate phase-in and discontinuation dates, they don't feature accurate seating capacities or operational ranges. This is further exaggerated by the fact that the game does not allow airlines to make any alterations to the seating capacities or cabin configurations.

Western Animation

  • Tale Spin's Sea Duck is a cargo plane that can outperform fighter jets. This is partly Justified Trope 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 absurd for 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—jet engine technology is barely nascent. Baloo actually pilots the first jet engine known in the series' universe. Yes, I said 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.
  • 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 airplane, 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... The plane later crashes after running out of fuel, and Quagmire, its pilot, loses his job. 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.
  • South Park often falls into this trope such as showing a DC9 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 airlines 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" toawrds the north pole is more direct.
    • Once they get to the airport it continues. After talking about Southwest earlier, they check-in at the Delta 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 they DO fly) would have 6 across.
  • Toward the end of Rock-a-Doodle, the rodent character actually refers to a large, twin-rotor helicopter the main characters apparantly stole as a Sikorsky, but in real life, Sikorsky never manufactured any twin-rotor helicopters at all!
  • 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.

Real Life

  • In 2011, China released a video of one of its pilots shooting down another aircraft during training. Almost immediatly it was noticed that the footage of the exercise pretty much identical to a scene from Top Gun .
  • It's an inaccuracy to call all Soviet/Russian aircraft MiGs. There are plenty of non-Mikoyan aircraft in Russian service—such as Sukhoi's Su-27 "Flanker". Perhaps justified that most of the Russian fighters that got a lot of publicity during the Cold War were Mikoyan aircraft, and American ace pilots and the aircraft they flew who scored many kills against Cold War opponents were called "Mig Killers". Sukhoi did not come into much prominence until they introduced the Flanker, which by the time it became publicly seen and well known, the Cold War was over (the only Sukhois involved in live combat during the Cold War, at least as reported by the US, were the Su-22's shot down in the Gulf of Sidra incident).
  • 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 called them a bunch of racist douchebags) had a picture of a Spitfire. However, the letters "RF" were clearly visible on it. This identified the aircraft quickly 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.
  • In a Nissan ad depicting a 747 about to crash due to its front landing gear being broken, the writers didn't do the research. A plane with broken landing gear would simply land without any landing gear, rather than nose-diving into the runway.
  • The U2/GreenDay video for "The Saints are Coming" makes multiple horrendous errors in terms of military aircraft capabilities, the worst being the simulated portrayal of a Harrier lifting a small child from flooded New Orleans in a basket slung not very far beneath its fuselage. Jet efflux is tremendously hot: in real life, the child would very quickly have been burned to death.
  • Advertising example: The Intel Corporation, along with an Australian electronics company called Dick Smith's Electronics, have recently begun 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...
  • 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 F/A-18s, not the air force.
    • An understandable mistake if one remembers that in most countries, fixed-wing aircraft are usually the responsibility of the air force. The United States, with four services flying fixed-wing aircraft, and three of them equipped with fighters, is very much an anomaly.
  1. Mikoyan have always built fighters. Back in the Cold War days, in addition to indicating the design bureau ("MiG", "Su", "Tu", "Yak", etc.), Soviet designations made the distinction between fighters and other aircraft; odd numbers were fighters, even ones bombers and everything else (though with specialized ground attack aircraft, the difference did get fuzzy at times). So there was a MiG-27 and a MiG-29, but no -28.