If you're strapped to the exterior of a plane that goes supersonic would you survive?

Imagine a pilot seat is affixed to the exterior hull of an F-14 Tomcat. The weather is a warm spring day and you’re dressed in street clothes, a jacket and a pilot’s helmet. You’re securely strapped in, and the plane accelerates, and after a few minutes makes a supersonic pass 300 feet above the ground? Do you survive OK or not? If the plane continued at supersonic for a period of time how long could you survive?

I don’t think you could breathe at that speed.

Well, let’s say you could hold your breath for a few minutes during the inital supersonic pass. Would the supersonic “boom” effects hurt you?

While the following stories don’t exactly answer your question, they’ll give you an idea of what riding on the outside of an aircraft can be like:

I think long before that, your body being slammed with 600 mph air might be doing some serious complaining.

Unless there was a similar person on the opposing wing, I doubt the pilot would favor the deal, owing to asymmetric loading of the wings, assuming you wouldn’t be torn off the wing along with your seat.

Heh…I never even visualized it like that reading the OP. I was picturing something more aerodynamic, like being strapped back-to-fuselage, centerline ventral, facing forward or something…

I visualized a guy wearing goggles smoking a cigar sitting in an office chair, chair bolted to wing, not unlike something Slug would draw. :stuck_out_tongue:

Now I’m seeing the old Memorex commercial, scarf flying…

The other unanswered question is whether or not William Shatner goes buggo if he’s inside the plane and sees you sitting on the wing.

Actually, it would have to be John Lithgow. There weren’t any supersonic commercial planes when Shatner did his gremlin act.

True-I was thinking of Shatner’s reprisal of the classic Twilight Zone episode-and neither involved supersonic flight.

Well, yes. But the OP did. :smiley:

Wings are a bit “funny” to figure on, sometimes.

(It wasn’t supersonic, though, I’ll admit.)

I’m surprised none of you mentioned Capt. Joseph W. Kittinger Jr.


](http://www.afa.org/magazine/valor/0685valor.asp)I think he might still be the only human to break the sound barrier without a vehicle!

The shockwave that makes the boom isn’t a single event, it is a continuous thing. It is only a boom to an observer when the cone shaped wave passes.

That said it would depend on where you were strapped on? If you were out in a prominent place, perhaps lashed to the radome or a glove vane, where you were were producing your own shock wave then it’s pretty much bye-bye. If you were say on the belly in the tunnel between the engines, perhaps nested between to multipurpose weapons rails you might be protected enough so that what was left of you might still have a pulse.

Not everyone agrees that kittenger went supersonic. In any event he could have only done so in the exteme high atmosphere where the net force of the shock wave was equal to his own body weight which is the same force any skydiver faces at terminal velocity at any altitude. Push someone supersonic near sea level and the forces are considerably higher.

Here’s the story of a Lockheed test pilot who survived an in-flight breakup of an SR-71 at Mach 3 and 78,000 feet. Like Capt. Kittinger, he was wearing a pressure suit which protected him from the wind, low temperature and low pressure. I think This site provides an overview of Col. John P. Stapp, MD, Ph.D. He was the guy who did the infamous rocket sled experiments. Although the experiments were designed to measure the effects of deceleration forces on the human body, Stapp made one run at 632 mph, unprotected from the wind. According to the site, the wind loads were in the vicinity of 4000 lbs.

Reading other high-speed ejection reports, it seems that many airmen experience broken arms, legs, and ribs, as well as extensive bruising of the face if the helmet is torn off. I’m trying to find a report I read about an F-15E crew that ejected near Mach 1 after becoming disoriented while maneuvering on a dark night… I’ll post if I can find it.

At an indicated airspeed of 600 MPH +, you can not breathe unless your face is some how protected.

The rocket sled ride did not last long enough for that to be a problem

Not sure how long your skin would hold sitting face on to a 600 + MPH ride that lasted more than a minute.

Speed of sound near sea level is usually up neat 700+ MPH

Take an oxygen bottle and a warm coat and sit on an airliner wing at 650 MPH ground speed at 41,000 feet where your actual indicated airspeed is onlu about 168 MPH and you will be fine, if a bit cold.

To sit face on from 0 ground speed and 0 air speed and last until the quickest fighter could accelerate you to Mach 1+ 10 MPH at less than 1000 feet MSL and I’d bet large $$$$$ on you not being alive to feel the thrill. Not even with a full face helmet.

You need the protection from the wind force for that long an exposure.

Just a few scraps of clothing flapping at those actual wind speeds will do you major damage.

Now you can change the problem many ways and people have lived through things but it did not go on for very long.

Without face protection form something, I will bet lots of $$ on you not being able to breathe and so you can not survive under those conditions for enough time to claim that the human body can.

The rest is just, “But what if” in the direction of stupidity…

My Google-fu’s broken. But there was this guy who set the record for wing walking by being strapped to a passenger jet. IIRC, he was standing facing the wind. Not supersonic but maybe 1/2 way?

Yeah, I remember that guy, too. He didn’t really “wing walk” - as I remember it, he was strapped in place standing up on the fuselage of a jet airliner, wearing a heavy protective suit and some kind of mask and goggle arrangement. Presumably, he would have had the wind whipping around him at somewhere between 400 and 500 mph.