How an Israeli F-15 Eagle managed to land with one wing

Sep 15 2014 - 8 Comments

The famous episode when an Israeli Air Force F-15 was able to land with one wing.

The F-15 is not only a famous MiG Killer.

The legendary Eagle is also a very robust aircraft, that can survive some serious damages. As shown by a very well-known incident which occurred in 1983, in the skies over Nahal Tzin in the Negev desert, in Israel, during a mock aerial combat between two Israeli Air Force F-15Ds and four A-4Ns, when one of the Eagles, the F-15D #957 nicknamed ‘Markia Shchakim’, 5 killmarks, used for conversion of a new pilot named Zivi Nedivi, collided mid-air with one of the Skyhawks.

As explained in No Wing F-15, an interesting piece written by John Easley, Zivi didn’t immediately realize what had happened: he felt a big jolt and saw a huge fireball caused by the A-4 explosion, followed by radio communications according to those the Skyhawk pilot had successfully ejected.

He realized that the F-15 was badly damaged when the aircraft fell in a very tight spiral after a huge fuel leak from its right wing.

After regaining the control of the aircraft Nedivi was ordered to eject but decided not to bail out since he was confident he could land the plane at the nearest airfield, 10 miles away, even thought the F-15 was flying on vapors: he began to reduce speed but the missing right wing (that the Israeli pilot was still unaware of) caused a new spin.

Then just before ejecting, Nedivi decided to light the afterburners, gaining speed and managing to somehow control the F-15 once again.

Once he reached the air base, he lowered the tail hook, touched down at about 260 knots, which was twice the speed recommended for a standard landing, and managed to stop the plane about 10 meters before it engaged the Safeland Airfield Arrester Barrier.

As told by Easley, it was only after he turned back to shake his instructor’s hand, that Zivi discovered that he had flown and landed without a wing!

After the mishap, McDonnell Douglas, inquired by the Israeli Air Force, affirmed that it was impossible for an F-15 to with one wing only, but once they received the photo of the Eagle flying without one wing, they said that, pilot skills aside, damaged aircraft had been able to return to the base thanks to the lift generated by both its engine intakes and its fuselage.

Nevertheless proving once again its tremendous strength, after two months the Eagle received a new wing and returned to fly, as you can see in the picture below.

F-15 957

Image credit: Wiki

In the following video you can hear Zivi Nedivi himself explaining how he was able to land without its right wing.

 Top Image credit: Israeli Defense Force


  • Jack Abercrombie

    All the flight photos of the one-wing F-15 are fakes. Only the still pictures on the ground are real. The following comments are based on a detailed analysis of the original History Channel program.

    The in-flight photo of an airplane from below
    shows no centerline stores. Yet on the bottom photo on
    taxi/roll out, there is a centerline store–probably a tank. The
    “in-flight” photo sequence on the video lasted less than two seconds. The next in-flight photo below it shows a big, fat
    store on the LH wing, and barely discernible on the RH side a “stub”
    wing cleanly sliced off without the ragged garbage which actually was
    there as shown on the other, real photos of the airplane on the ground.
    The stub is barely discernible in the still. As mentioned above, the bottom on-the-ground
    taxi/roll out picture shows a centerline
    store. Curiously enough, the photos with people standing
    around show no external stores. Did they remove them prior to the
    investigation? I think not.

    There were other artistic license sequences in the original program:

    Roll-out was noted as occuring on 26 June with 1st
    flight the day after roll-out. And the photo was not of

    The other airplane shown before the collision was
    not a Skyhawk.

    The video shows a lot of fuel spraying out
    obscuring the area where the missing wing should have been–obviously dubbed

    A “view” of the pilot taken from near his
    instrument panel shows a left roll–I kind of don’t think that’s what would
    have happened in real life.

    A view of the airplane “from 10 miles out”
    from the airport shows one of the test airplanes with colored vertical

    One of the Iraqi airplanes shown being downed by a
    missile shot is of a target drone (is that what the Iraqi pilots were

    Otherwise, the event was real. A remarkable bit of flying, and a remarkable airplane.

    • Pedro Alcontes

      That’s why you don’t trust history channel, artistic license sucks

    • Eric Denney

      Old post, but respectfully, it took only seconds of watching the video to realize it was a recreation, or that almost every second of it was recreated. If they had any good video of what actually happened from the pilot pov, wingman pov, or from the ground, it would have been shown ad nauseam. There were a couple seconds here and there that at first glance looked plausibly like actual video, but they would only show those clips for a second or two then cut away to the blatantly and poorly recreated scenes. Shame, it would have been amazing to see, and it’s still an amazing story. As the pilot said, I’m sure he wouldn’t have dreamed of trying to land that thing if he’d known the severity of the damage.

    • Patrick Ogden

      I would agree with most of your analysis. Most of the F15s in the video are actually E models. You can tell by the use of the LANTIRN pods (targeting and navigational pods) situated under the left/right intakes as well as the Conformal Fuel Tanks (CFTs) located on the left/ride side of the fuselage where the wing and fuselage meet. So wrong model of the aircraft. Knowing this, one should be able to recognize that the video is a dramatization of the actual flight and not the actual flight itself.

      If an F15 C/D/E is loaded with a centerline store; pylon with/without fuel tanks or other stores, impulse cartridges are installed to allow the jettison of the stores (including the pylon) for emergencies. So in reference to the pictures showing an aircraft with a centerline store on roll out/taxi and then not being there later on, the stores could have been jettisoned. But once again, this was just a dramatization.

      Just thought that I would mention those not to correct you, but to inform. I have worked on those three models for a culmination of 13 years.

      As far as navigational/piloting the aircraft, I have no clue as to what the pilot experienced or what cautions/warnings he had received.

  • JoeThePimpernel

    Built by the now defunct McDonnell-Douglas in St. Louis, Missouri.

    When I was in grade school I probably heard them testing those very engines.

  • RevCrowley

    So it’s really true: with enough power you can make an anvil fly.

    • Even harriers can fly straight up even though their wings are pointed in the wrong direction


    that´s a nice article…