F-20 Home

Encyclopedia Astronautica

Hank Chouteau

The Cid Home Page

Haplogroup W Home

Hank Chouteau was head of the test pilot cadre at Northrop. He had been lead pilot on the YF-17. Once, while flying along at 35,000 feet over the Nevada desert, his canopy separated without warning. He found himself flying an open-cockpit aircraft at Mach 0.9 and -150 deg F. Chouteau made an emergency landing on a salt lake bed in the desert and flagged down a passing farmer's truck for a ride back to the nearest telephone. Examination of the aircraft indicated that the canopy frame was still firmly attached to the aircraft. It was later found that during manufacture an assembly technician had wanted to be really, really sure that the canopy was firmly in its frame. He had over-torqued the mounting bolts, resulting in a hairline crack all along the canopy mounting holes. It held for some time, but finally gave way in the middle of Chouteau's flight.

The problem was, there was no spare canopy. A ground incident had deeply scratched the canopy of the other prototype, and the only spare had been used to replace it. Someone remembered that there had been an article of the huge acrylic dome rejected for minor optical imperfections (Northrop routinely rejected canopies for production aircraft for any optical imperfections. The manufacturers would sell them to the US government as spares - they weren't as picky). It was discovered that the Northrop engineer had taken possession of the rejected canopy, sealed its ends, and was using it at home as a novel aquarium. The fish were evicted, the canopy reworked, and installed on the open cockpit YF-17. The test program could continue.

Chouteau pointed out that the F-20 was an outstanding gun platform. When you slewed the aircraft in air combat, the nose stayed on its target easily, without a heavy pilot workload to keep it there. The YF-17 had not been a good aircraft in this regard.

Back to the F-20A Tigershark Home Page
© Mark Wade, 1997 - 2006 except where otherwise noted.
Please contact us with any corrections, additions, or comments.
Google Site Search: