Crazy Ivans … or, what Russian Su-35 pilots will do for a buck



This is one of those stories that’s so crazy it is probably true.

Here’s how it goes: A Russian movie company hires two Sukhoi pilots to film a couple of stunts. The pilots agree to take off without a canopy.

Apparently following a plot-twist in the film, the back-seat pilot ejects from the aircraft while the front-seater keeps flying.

(As a friend of mine notes: “Why use dummies when you can use real Russian pilots? Those guys are amazing.” )

The front-seater later claims he flew beyond Mach 2.0 … with an open canopy! And then he says: “While on this speed I even managed to pull out my fingers inglove for an inch or two outside – it became heated very fast becauseof immense friction force plane undergoes with the air.”

Oh, and this was all done with Sukhoi’s tail number 801, which is nothing less than the SU-35UB prototype — one of the most advanced jets Sukhoi ever built!!! (See SU-35UB promo video below.)



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67 Responses to Crazy Ivans … or, what Russian Su-35 pilots will do for a buck

  1. Nikolai Ivanovich Lobochevsky 24 July, 2009 at 4:33 pm #

    I am glad you posted this, but I call photoshop on that top image.

  2. Ivan Charvat 24 July, 2009 at 5:11 pm #

    The Sukhoi-35 in the second-pilot ejection does not have part of the refueling boom cover missing.
    The jet on the ground has a lot of that cover missing.

    It is likely therefore that the alleged “ejection” plane is not the same one as in the rest of the story. It is these sorts of neglected details that cops notice, to catch out deceptions…

  3. l0b0t 24 July, 2009 at 5:49 pm #

    Uhh, the above comment from Ivan makes little sense. One may as well say that the Su-35 on the ground has a boarding ladder attached so it is not the same plane as the one in the ejection photo.

  4. Stephen Trimble 24 July, 2009 at 5:51 pm #

    Agreed.

  5. Royce 24 July, 2009 at 5:59 pm #

    Mach 2 with an open canopy? Doesn’t that sound a little like a tall tale?

  6. Stephen Trimble 24 July, 2009 at 6:02 pm #

    Well, yes, that part. But the bar is very, very low here.

  7. Phaid 24 July, 2009 at 8:04 pm #

    The aircraft in the ejection photo and the aircraft rolling on the ground in the last photo are clearly not the same.

    Not only is the refueling boom partly exposed on the ground pic, but the paint scheme does not exactly match between the two A/C. Notice for example the lower front edge of the port vertical stabilizer – the area of dark blue is obviously different between the two. Also, the ejection aircraft does not have the orange warning labels nor the blue Sukhoi logo below the canopy.

    One of the photos in the article shows people looking over the Su-35, including someone probably painting on the scorch marks behind the canopy, while the caption reads “The plane is being prepared for the no-canopy flight.”

    The airplane in the ejection picture is probably a scale model painted to resemble Bort 801. While they obviously did fly the real Bort 801 without a canopy, they almost certainly simply removed the rear seat beforehand. It’s still a pretty wild thing to do with an expensive development airframe, but I guess when you’re that cash starved anything could happen I guess.

  8. Lightndattic 24 July, 2009 at 9:05 pm #

    Notice the tops of the vertical tails in the ejection photo. They are not the squared off tops of 801, but rather a line Su-27UB. Look at the horizontal stabs. That much deflection would impart a large pitch motion, which wouldn’t be good for the action shots. You’d want your subject nice and stable in the viewfinder. See the drogue parachutes at the end of the ejection seat booms? If this were an ejection in forward flight, they would be streaming straight back to stabilize the seat. Because this is pretty obviously a ground ejection, they are pitched down.

    I don’t doubt they flew Bort 801 topless, but the ejection photo is at most a ground ejection with the landing gear chopped out.

  9. Stephen Trimble 24 July, 2009 at 9:08 pm #

    You guys are good!

  10. 7K7 24 July, 2009 at 10:20 pm #

    I’ll second the comment about a ground ejection on the basis of the extreme downward deflection of the tailplane (let alone the lack of rearward displacement of the ejectee relative to his former cockpit station) :-)

  11. quango72 26 July, 2009 at 11:02 am #

    You’ve got some intelligent readers Stephen!

    Here is a story to prove the lie “beyond mach 2″ without a canopy.
    A mid-air refueling goes wrong for a Hornet driver:

    http://tailhookdaily.typepad.com/tailhook_daily_briefing/2008/08/another-oldie-b.html

  12. pomoek 27 July, 2009 at 7:41 pm #

    I also thought that thr mach 2 story was far fetched. And the story that the pilot put his fingers in the airstream is absolutely bogus. They would inmediatly break off. An ejection at that high speed would certainly mean that the pilot would receive mayor injuries, he might even die. For the rest: Lightndattic said it all. (pardon my English I’m Dutch)

  13. sjtoy 27 July, 2009 at 7:51 pm #

    All good. Now who’s going to tell Gizmodo that they’ve been had?
    http://gizmodo.com/5323825/crazy-russian-sukhoi-su+35-pilot-ejects-for-a-hollywood-movie-at-mach-2

  14. Tim 27 July, 2009 at 9:08 pm #

    Here is the story of a guy who ejected from an SR-71 at Mach 3

    http://www.thedigitalaviator.com/blog/?p=504

    And the Hornet story doesn’t really say its impossible to fly a plane with no canopy. The guy in the hornet stayed hunched inside because he was cold. He was flying slow because he was low on fuel, he very clearly wanted to go faster.

  15. Zaagr 28 July, 2009 at 10:53 am #

    “Crazy Ivans … or, what Russian Su-35 pilots will do for a buck” – The most stupid title for this video i’ve ever seen.
    THIS IS A CRUSH TEST!!!

  16. ima 28 July, 2009 at 11:23 am #

    The aircraft in the ejection photo is actually staying on ground, and the ejection wasn’t even for movie – it was a test of K-36DM ejection seat. I’ve seen the original somewhere.

    Story of other photos is probably similar: videos of flight tests were retouched and used for movie.

  17. ima 28 July, 2009 at 11:34 am #

    Googling brought this:
    http://forums.airforce.ru/attachment.php?attachmentid=11847&d=1212005118

    different angle, but same event

  18. Brian C. 28 July, 2009 at 3:39 pm #

    The photo of the inflight ejection is faked. I’ve been creating Photoshop images for years. The missing refueling port has been painted out, the flames blasting down on the aircraft do not match the proper flow for any ejection, let alone at mach speeds. Even if you could get your hand above the canopy edge to ‘feel’ any temp., at that speed without a canopy, he’d have to hold the stick with both hands. Without the canopy aerodynamic forces would have produced a wind shear affect that would be trying to suck both men out of the aircraft. Also the ejection seat is moving straight up. At those speeds it should be at a diagonal and at mach speeds it would have ripped the pilot’s helmet right off, most likely even taking his head with it.

  19. Brian C. 28 July, 2009 at 3:58 pm #

    Tim,

    Thanks for the Link. What an incredible story. That was truly a miracle. The crazy ivans stuff was all faked.

  20. NA 28 July, 2009 at 5:20 pm #

    Talked to a guy I work with. F-18 pilot/trainer/test & evaluation background.

    Test requires in air (ie flying) use of ejection seat to see if it works properly. Importantly its safer for the aircraft because the ejected seat won’t land on the expensive test plane. Typically done with a crash test dummy strapped to the seat (think Buster).

    Flight without canopy because they’re expensive. Still has to test ejection system’s capability to punch through a canopy but again use a crash test dummy for mass and loading.

  21. jjbluebell 28 July, 2009 at 8:17 pm #

    1. Jan 1998 Lt “Jak” london survived canopy explosion in Sea Harrier F/A.2 at 40000ft over Gulf of Aden. Flew for 20 mins/70 nm back to safe landing on HMS Invincible.
    2. BAe TP Keith Hartley flew Tornado GR Mk1 on special trial at Warton in rear seat without canopy to assess buffet level at high speed following rear-seater ejection problems.
    3. Graham Tomlinson, now BAES CTP on F-35B Program landed Harrier TMk2 successfully after front-seater ejected (and freed control restriction that led to ejection decision).
    4. Yes its Photoshop.

  22. BoQ 28 July, 2009 at 9:36 pm #

    Why is my personal crap detector going off?????

  23. Slingblade 29 July, 2009 at 4:08 am #

    I agree that it is a photo shop job. The claim of going mach 2 is total garbage too. Anyone that has flown high performance aircraft knows that in the event of canopy loss the first thing that you do is to slow down (usually to a minimum drag speed). This accomplishes several things: a) it minimizes drag on the aircraft, b) it lowers wind noise, c) it reduces the aerodynamic stresses on the aircraft since now there are many exposed surfaces creating drag that were never meant to, and finally it helps the pilot because yes it is cold too. That aircraft has two big engines but I seriously doubt that they would push that amount of drag up to mach 1 yet alone mach 2, and I definitely wouldn’t want to be the one that tried.

  24. Aviapics 30 July, 2009 at 9:55 am #

    Nobody is commenting on the position of the ailerons?
    Looks very weird for a plane doing a ejection at high speed with another plane chasing for video…
    But if you look to Su-35 pictures on the ground, they look like in parking position… so… yes, it’s photoshop!
    If you also look to ejection pictures, the flame is never straight but curved by the air flow at high speed.
    Definitely photoshoped.

  25. Bruno 30 July, 2009 at 12:08 pm #

    Hey guys,

    Look where that PSed ejection picture comes from:

    http://www.webpark.ru/comments.php?id=20989 (it’s the second picture once everything loads)

    Now we just need someone that speaks russian to translate it for us.

  26. Don 30 July, 2009 at 9:32 pm #

    Guys, in the video two men took off with the aircraft, and two men landed with the same aircraft.

    The still shot is clearly image edited for the film production. Seen in real time, and expertly edited, the overall action sequence most likely looks real.

  27. Mark 3 August, 2009 at 3:04 pm #

    SHOPPED! That’s it. Interesting story, but just a story. It didn’t happen.

  28. Coza 4 August, 2009 at 1:23 pm #

    Did you read the article?

    [quote]See SU-35UB promo video below[/quote]

    It’s not a video of the actual story happening, just a video to show you the plane they were “using”

  29. photoshop 5 August, 2009 at 10:16 am #

    Here’s the original photo. The plane is on the ground…

    http://www.webpark.ru/comments.php?id=20989

  30. Jim 5 August, 2009 at 4:59 pm #

    After some espionage of my own, I can reveal that these pictures have something to do with the Russian film ‘Mirror Wars’, which, as it stars Malcolm McDowell and the mighty Rutger Hauer, must be awesome.

    From the imdb site, one review says that ‘…all movie budget was spent for action scenes, plane crashings (very effective – without CG!)’ so maybe they really did crash a plane.

    Link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0337678/ – check the photo gallery for yet another version of the ejection pic, this time less obviously photoshopped.

    youtube trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cMSPhG_YXjE

    Article: http://209.85.229.132/search?q=cache:s1k6ie9l5_IJ:motion.kodak.com/motion/uploadedFiles/sukhoi.pdf+%22mirror+wars%22+ejection&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&client=safari

    So as it is from a film, who cares which bit is real. But I think it was flown without a canopy.

    Bit more info here: http://www.arcforums.com/forums/air/index.php?showtopic=189657&st=0

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