Retrotechtacular: Don’t Balk At Pitch-Up In The McDonnell F-101 Voodoo

The McDonnell aircraft corporation’s F-101 Voodoo was a lean, mean, supersonic machine capable of going from tarmac to 40,000 feet in about two minutes. But for all its innovation and engineering, the Voodoo had a common problem of pitch-up. That is, the swept-back wings of the Voodoo created a tendency for the plane to nose upward very sharply, negating the pilot’s control.

McDonnell assures Voodoo pilots that this problem is easily overcome with a cool head and a solid foundation of know-how about the issue. This training film is meant to provide that foundation, exploring the causes of pitch-up and the prescribed methods for recovery with and without deployment of the drag chute.

The drag chute is always the recommended route to help correct the craft. This is especially true for a full-scale pitch-up situation. Recovery is possible without the drag chute, however. The altitude lost in recovery is proportional to the altitude at the time that pitch-up occurs. That is, the lower the altitude of the craft when pitch-up occurs, the less altitude is lost in getting back to straight and level flight.

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17 thoughts on “Retrotechtacular: Don’t Balk At Pitch-Up In The McDonnell F-101 Voodoo

    1. Well, fortunately it is not an entirely unhappy story. Although the USA government was unhappy about their northern neighbours building a nuclear-capable fighter, their political pressure to kill it freed up the Arrow design engineering team.

      … who then were hired by NASA to design the machines that put men in orbit, on the moon and brought them home again: It’s Germans, Brits and Canadians who contributed much of the design work in the Apollo program.

      (But damn, that Voodoo was a loud SOB. Loudest plane I’ve ever heard.)

      1. I believe the Gemini capsule was designed by a guy from AVRO, and of course there is the theory that the US “killed” the Arrow so they could poach AVRO, but like those who say we didn’t go to the moon, that’s just a conspiracy theory.

        1. To be sure, there were a lot of internal Canadian political and financial issues that led to its demise, but the “suspicious/envious Americans made us do it” story goes better with Canadian beer :-) Kind of like the story of why the White House is white…

          But the story of the Avro designers and engineers contributing significantly to NASA’s Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs is indisputable fact. Google and Wikipedia provide lots of backup there, as will this book: and

      2. It was more of a bomber interceptor than a fighter. ICBM’s made intercontinental bombing by aircraft, and the aircraft to intercept and shoot down the bombers, obsolete. The Orenda Iroquois engines should have been kept in development and taken to production. For those, a good use could have been found.

        1. I don’t disagree that interceptors are pointless when compared to SAMs, but I keep hearing Canadian politicians say that they need the new POS plane from the USA to intercept Russian “bear” bombers as they fly in international airspace along the borders.

          It was absolutely a conspiracy to destroy Avro and to transfer the technology south. Who destroys a newly built and tested plane and engine? Have you burned your house down yet?

      3. The cult of the Arrow.
        The US actually helped Canada to develop the Arrow. The US lent Canada a B-47 to test the Iroquois engine. The Arrow was going to use the Sparrow II and when that went south the Falcon missile and the radar/fire-control system from the F-106.
        As to the nuclear myth. The US supplied Canada with nuclear air to air rockets for the F-101 under a dual key system. The Arrow could have been a very interesting design but it was not as good as the myths would make it out to be. The US was working on more advanced interceptors like the F-108 and the YF-12. Simple truth is the big danger shifted from bombers to ICBMs.
        And the F-101 was good enough since no one bombed Canada while it was defended by the Voodoo and it was a lot cheaper. Was it worth the loss of Avro? That is a different question.
        As fan of all cool planes I so wish they had at least finished the prototypes, tested them, and put them in museums.

      4. I was in the United States Air Force, 1978 -82 stationed at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida. I was an analog flight simulator specialist/technician, and was assigned to the Melpar MB 40 F – 101B Voodoo flight simulator. When I had a hearing problem recur, the physiological testing section at the other end of our building hung a dosimeter on me to measure noise exposure – they said no noise levels recorded exceeded workplace allowances, except for one point where the dosimeter went off the chart… I was asked if I could explain that… I thought for a minute, then asked if walking out of the simulator facility into the parking lot which was a few hundred yards Away from the flight line while an F-4 Phantom II was taking off In full afterburner could cause it; the physiological testing technician laughed and replied, “that would do it!!!”
        The hot, humid air in the Florida Panhandle negates lifting efforts for aircraft like putting lemon in a frying pan . It did not help breathing much, either!

  1. Something very similar to this pitch-up and roll-coupling problem happened to Chuck Yeager in the NF-104 Starfighter, and it nearly killed him. Yeager tried to right the aircraft 13 times before ejectingt, and the aircraft spun only one more time before smacking the desert. Then, the rocket from his seat smacked him in the face shield and started a pure oxygen fire. It’s a thrilling story, and in his autobiography, which is highly recommended.

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