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View Full Version : Battlestar Galactica: when vipers DO fly like airplanes



tracer
2005-Sep-21, 01:30 AM
One of the things many folks around here really, really like about the new Battlestar Galactica TV series is that the Viper spacefighters really do maneuver like spacecraft rather than like airplanes. They rotate around all three axes, they don't have to bank when they turn, they have visible maneuvering thrusters, et cetera.

But.

There's one area where the Vipers most definitely still behave like airplanes. I'm talking about when a viper lands on board the Galactica.

Late last season, there was an episode where Starbuck was training new viper pilots. She was shown guiding some of them in one-at-a-time to the Galactica's landing bay. These vipers were all coming in fast -- so fast that the pilots had difficulty landing safely. Since these were newly-minted, inexperienced viper pilots, I complained bitterly that they should have simply lowered their approach speed and landed slowly. They would have been able to land with no problems then.

But my complaints fell on deaf ears. The other posters on the Bad Astronomy Bulletin Board (before it merged with the Universe Today board here) were of the opinion that they were merely practicing high-speed landings because vipers might have to get back on board the Galactica quickly if there's a Cylon attack going on and the ship has to make a Jump.


Well ... flash forward to last week's episode, where a reporteer was nosing around the Galactica filming everyone. In that episode, a viper pilot was losing her cool and was unable to come in for a landing. There were no Cylons around and no threat of an imminent Cylon attack. Yet, she still came in fast and hot and had to be waved off several times. Starbuck finally had to talk her in, and she still smacked her undercarriage hard against the landing deck.

And all that time, nobody thought of telling her to just make a low-speed landing. They acted as though a high-speed landing was the only kind of landing they could make. They all behaved as though the viper were an airplane landing on an aircraft carrier. Starbuck even used the phrase "call the ball" -- a phrase used by modern carrier landing signal officers to get the approaching aircraft onto the proper glide slope.

Grrrr! :mad: There is no "glide slope" in space travel! Spacecraft do not have to worry about going below their "stall speed"! Galactica is routinely putting its pilots at risk simply because the scriptwriters think aircraft carrier landings are "cool." :razz:

jt-3d
2005-Sep-21, 01:36 AM
Yup, I agree. It is a bit silly...but more dramatic, not better but dramatic. Let's just say that it's because they may have to land on a planet some day. Who knows, I don't let these bother me too much but yeah, it's dumb. Perhaps if they turned off the thrusters?

Enzp
2005-Sep-21, 03:36 AM
I think they should bank into turns, regardless of where they fly. I would rather have my momentum pushing me down into my seat - "down" from the frame of reference of my butt - than shoving me against the side wall of the cockpit.

Ricimer
2005-Sep-21, 05:43 AM
well, I'd say that's not so much "banking" as prefering an specific direction to to be the outside of the turn. That also looks a lot different than banking.

As for the fast landing last episode, that was one of their continuity mistakes. Normally they come in fastish, which would probably save on fuel (less delta-V required to match velocities, just let the hook do all the work) and keep them a bit sharp.

But yeah, they should have told her to come in slow.

captain swoop
2005-Sep-21, 09:25 AM
It's always a problem with Sci Fi. theres nothing to stop them doing a vertical landing or take off. I suppose they assume viewers are used to seeing film of Aircraft Carriers.

ToSeek
2005-Sep-21, 02:06 PM
I liked the Monty Python/Life of Brian take on this. ;)

Humphrey
2005-Sep-21, 02:32 PM
I guess you could argue that the artificial gravity of the ship prevents a slow methodical landing. But i agre with you, its one of the things the put in becasue it just looks damn cool.


Also i wonder how they presurize the landing bay so fast to let people in without the aid of spacesuits. The BSG universe does not have shields. So i have no clue how they do that.

captain swoop
2005-Sep-21, 03:07 PM
And how dothey keep repressurising it after they have depressurised it? where does all the air come from? If they just let the stuff outthey must have some big tanks somewhere, if they pump it out into tanks they must have some huge pumps somewhere.

Wolverine
2005-Sep-21, 04:03 PM
In that episode, a viper pilot was losing her cool and was unable to come in for a landing.
...
Yet, she still came in fast and hot and had to be waved off several times. Starbuck finally had to talk her in, and she still smacked her undercarriage hard against the landing deck.

I wasn't able to stomach more than a few minutes of the new series, so I have to ask... do these Vipers still have TURBO buttons on the sticks like in the original?

Maybe hers was stuck...

Moose
2005-Sep-21, 04:43 PM
And all that time, nobody thought of telling her to just make a low-speed landing. They acted as though a high-speed landing was the only kind of landing they could make.

If they intend to remain as combat pilots, that may very well have been the only option. If they are unable to learn to do this during peacetime and are allowed to give up and tiptoe in, they won't be able to do it under real pressure when BSG wouldn't have time to coddle them as much as they did.

Letting them land softly would have meant washing the pilots out entirely. As limited as their crew replenishment is likely to be, I can see them letting the trainees die trying rather than give up on them.

There may also be some issues with the transition to a non-microG environment.

Kemal
2005-Sep-21, 07:31 PM
Yeah that's a good point, I didn't think of that.

Remember in the episode where they attack the asteroid base? Apollo takes his fighter into a mine shaft and comes up on a 90degree angle turn. He fires some thrusters that vent to the fore end of the fighter and comes to a halt pretty quickly to avoid crashing. So the fighters can obviously stop pretty quickly, they should be able to do so in the carrier too.

tracer
2005-Sep-21, 08:15 PM
I think they should bank into turns, regardless of where they fly. I would rather have my momentum pushing me down into my seat - "down" from the frame of reference of my butt - than shoving me against the side wall of the cockpit.
The problem is, banking while turning would NOT push you into your seat if you're maneuvering in space. Banking while turning in space will not push your butt ANYWHERE.

Turning in space has to be accomplished by orienting your spacecraft so that the engines are firing directly away from the center of the circle that describes your turn. Since the main engines on a viper are always BEHIND the pilot, the pilot will get pushed BACK into the seat -- not down into the seat -- regardless of what kind of maneuver they're pulling.

That is, unless thay have artificial gravity generators in the cockpit. In which case, all bets are off.

tracer
2005-Sep-21, 08:19 PM
If they intend to remain as combat pilots, that may very well have been the only option. If they are unable to learn to do this during peacetime and are allowed to give up and tiptoe in, they won't be able to do it under real pressure when BSG wouldn't have time to coddle them as much as they did.
Yet we never ever see a viper making a low-speed landing. Ever. We never see an untrained pilot on his very first viper flight getting to land at low speed. We never see a badly-damaged fighter, limping home from successfully repelling the Cylons, getting to land at low speed. Every single viper landing has to be hot and furious.

And, I remind you, on a FRACKING "GLIDE SLOPE."

Kesh
2005-Sep-21, 10:13 PM
Why make a low-speed landing at all? Keep in mind that the Galactica is like an aircraft carrier. The entire point is to get those Vipers back into the bay as quickly as possible, so the rest of your pilots can get onboard fast in case you need to jump away.

I got the feeling that all the piloting aspects of BSG were based on modern aircraft carrier tactics. In which case, training for landings requires pilots to hit their marks at high speed every time. It's not just the flight characteristics of the plane, but it's also a measure of the pilot's capabilities. Not being able to put down on the deck is a failure. One that not only hurts the pilot's morale, but that of the rest of the flight crew.

The reason they didn't bring that cracking pilot in slow, to me, was that Starbuck wanted her to come in on her own. If they decided she couldn't do it, she'd probably have to be towed in. And it would have been a major failure. As it stands, there turned out to be a serious reason why she couldn't control the plane (besides nerves), but the flight deck controllers had no way of knowing that. Finally, assuming there's a serious medical issue, would you really think there was time for them to get her towed in alive?

I have no problems at all with the high-speed landings.

Wayne Clark
2005-Sep-21, 11:09 PM
Actually, in the miniseries, Apollo did make a slow landing on Galactica. It was slow and careful, though that might have been because he thought the auto-landing system was down (viz. his comments to Tyrol).

And I'm not sure they have artifical gravity in the landing bays, because Apollo's Viper had "mag-locks" to attach to the elevator, and didn't use the force of gravity to hold itself down. There's also the possibility, though, that the landing bays have artifical gravity, but have it turned off for normal operations where there's no need for quuick landings like there is during combat.

captain swoop
2005-Sep-22, 08:47 AM
It's stil lstupid. On an Aircraft Carrier after a landing the next aircraft can't come in until the deck is cleared and the wires are back up. If they come in slowly and land vertical then they can all come in together and land close. I have seen Harriers coming into Invincible one behind the other and landing within a very short time of each other. All slowly!!
so it's a stupid Crock!

tracer
2005-Sep-22, 11:28 PM
The reason they didn't bring that cracking pilot in slow, to me, was that Starbuck wanted her to come in on her own. If they decided she couldn't do it, she'd probably have to be towed in.
Or just have her, I don't know, make a fracking low-speed landing!

tracer
2005-Sep-22, 11:30 PM
It's stil lstupid. On an Aircraft Carrier after a landing the next aircraft can't come in until the deck is cleared and the wires are back up. If they come in slowly and land vertical then they can all come in together and land close. I have seen Harriers coming into Invincible one behind the other and landing within a very short time of each other. All slowly!!
so it's a stupid Crock!
Captain Swoop is right! </Howard Johnson>

If you want to get your vipers on board fast, have them close in on the battlestar at high speed, but then quickly decelerate just before they land. Safer, just about as quick, and no need for arresting-wire systems.

Kesh
2005-Sep-24, 01:39 AM
Or just have her, I don't know, make a fracking low-speed landing!
Assuming she's capable of piloting properly at all. Really, as erratically as she was flying, coming in at low speed would have been just as dangerous.

Kesh
2005-Sep-24, 01:42 AM
Captain Swoop is right! </Howard Johnson>

If you want to get your vipers on board fast, have them close in on the battlestar at high speed, but then quickly decelerate just before they land. Safer, just about as quick, and no need for arresting-wire systems.
Still don't buy it. Decellerating in a group sounds even more dangerous than coming in individually. You're either all coming in slow, in a line as described with the Harriers, or you need to keep coming in fast on arresting systems. And, for any true combat situation, I still say fast arrest is best.

Outside of combat, individual slow landings may make sense, but you still wind up stacking fighters that have to wait on each other to land.

Enzp
2005-Sep-24, 05:08 AM
Tracer, I suppose you are right, but if I fly my ship one way, then turn it 90 degrees and hit the gas, the craft will indeed push my butt forwards, but my body mass will still have momentum in the original direction, won't it? So if I lay the craft on its side - banking more or less - than that momentum is directed "down," rather than into the sidewall.

Ricimer
2005-Sep-24, 07:36 AM
First, the thing to note is that the thrusters aren't all located aft by the engine.

Second, yes, you will have momentum in that original direction, however the ship will continue to drift that way too, even if you turn.

The disconcerting thing will be when you make that 90 degree turn. The pilot is sitting offset form the center of rotation, so they'll be "pushed" to the "outside" of the turn. You do it right, and it'll push you into your seat, instead of up against the sholder straps (with a little forward motion from the engines to "bank" around).

So you could simulate it, if you wanted to.

Ara Pacis
2005-Sep-24, 05:10 PM
No one seems to have considered the possibility that the Galactica is accelerating, i.e. it's engines are thrusting. This means that the fighters and raptors would need to apply constant acceleration in order to land on the flight decks.

Humphrey
2005-Sep-24, 05:40 PM
No one seems to have considered the possibility that the Galactica is accelerating, i.e. it's engines are thrusting. This means that the fighters and raptors would need to apply constant acceleration in order to land on the flight decks.

Not really, its all relative. They could still slow down to the exact smae speed as glaactica, and thus essentically be standing still. Still no need to go in all thrusters fireing.

Ara Pacis
2005-Sep-24, 06:10 PM
Not really, its all relative. They could still slow down to the exact smae speed as glaactica, and thus essentically be standing still. Still no need to go in all thrusters fireing.
They can't match speed if Galactica's speed is constantly changing. Galactica, perhaps the entire fleet, may be constantly thrusting and would, therefore, be accelerating.

HAVOC451
2005-Sep-24, 08:21 PM
Actually, Starbuck warned the nugget several times to slow down.
Don't chase the lights. Don't chase the lights!