Coming in Hot

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

"Get everyone out of the way, I'm coming in hot!"

—Starbuck, Battlestar Galactica, first episode

Pretty much every movie, TV series, or whatever that involves an Aircraft Carrier (or its spacefaring or flying equivalent) will at some point feature a sequence where an aircraft, damaged or otherwise in less than perfect flying condition, has to make an emergency crash landing on the deck of the carrier. Cue the tense music, the landing signals officer patiently talking them down over radio, the deck crew erecting a crash barrier, the fire-suppression teams suiting up and grabbing their extinguishers and hoses, et cetera. May include Stock Footage of real crash landing accidents on carriers, often hilariously involving different aircraft from a different era than the one depicted in the story.

Note that most pilots with severely damaged planes in Real Life will not attempt a carrier landing, but rather will eject (note: as in The Final Countdown, pilots with "minor" malfunctions will land, and won't crash spectacularly—but that aside). In fact, standard operating procedure is to ditch the plane and be rescued- writing off the expensive fighter rather than risk the even more expensive pilot and damage to more expensive still aircraft carrier, as well as the possibility of damaging the carrier to the point where it cannot recover the other aircraft still flying and thus wiping out all those expensive fighters. But never mind that.

See also Reentry Scare, in which Coming in Hot involves comm silence. Get your mind out of the gutter.

Examples of Coming in Hot include:

Anime and Manga

  • Mu La Flaga crash-lands his Skygrasper more than once onto the Archangel in Gundam Seed, eventually wrecking it for good and moving on to pilot Humongous Mecha. Neo Roanoke in Gundam Seed Destiny does exactly the same thing soon after his Heel Face Turn, awakening memories which indicate that he is (a brainwashed) Mu La Flaga.
  • Another Gundam series, Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory, also features a memorable scene of the main Gundam crashing into the Albion's hangar, with special nets being deployed to slow it down.
  • The pilots of Area 88 frequently attempt to land damaged or burning planes at the eponymous air base, mostly because they have to personally pay for replacements.
  • Hellsing has a scene where Alucard "lands" a jet plane on a navy cruiser, after it's been shot into uselessness, traveling straight down at full speed. Naturally he survives. The ship is reduced to a charred wreck.
  • In the first Gall Force, Lufy is introduced to the crew of the Star Leaf when she decides to use their landing bay for one of these.

Comic Books

  • G.I.Joe: Half the time the pilot characters were featured, they ended up landing a damaged plane somewhere.
  • Marvel Universe: The X-Men's Blackbird explodes more time then a Star Trek: Voyager shuttle. The Avenger's Quinjets had a much, much worse track record. As for the Helicarriers, heck, they have an open field in New Jersey already picked out to smash them if they start acting funny over New York.


  • The Core - The Space Shuttle has its navigation thrown off by changes to the Earth's Magnetic field, and has to make a dead-stick landing in the Los Angeles River. Not technically an example of this trope, but it has much the same feel.
    • Notably the film's script originally had the shuttle blow up on re-entry, but then the Columbia accident happened and several scenes were hastily re-filmed as it was Too Soon. This does mean one character's motivations now make no sense, but hey, it's The Core.
  • The Final Countdown—After passing through the first time storm, a rookie pilot has to be landed with the aid of the volleyball-net-like crash barrier.
  • Flight Of The Intruder: In the beginning of the film, the urgency of the landing coming from the badly injured Bombadier-Navigator on board.
  • Parodied, of course, in Hot Shots. Topper asks for permission to land his damaged plane. Then he reports that his landing gear is frozen. And that he lost his radar. And that he's out of fuel. Oh, and he just lost a wing. And there goes the other. He eventually crash-lands his plane mangled fuselage on the deck. Vertically.
  • The Hunt for Red October—An F-14 collides with a Russian plane (cheaply offscreen) and crashlands on a carrier with the aid of Stock Footage of a Korean-War-era plane crashlanding on a carrier.
    • In the book, it turns out that this was Robby Jackson, Jack Ryan's friend (played by Samuel L. Jackson in Patriot Games) and future Vice President and successor as President.
    • Also in the book, Jackson's backseater is injured, and would have probably been killed in an ejection. Had this not been the case, it is likely that he would not have risked the landing in his damaged Tomcat. Also, the plane in the book was damaged not by a collision but by a missile fired by an over-excited Soviet pilot who thought he was under attack.
  • Midway—Several of the pilots returning from various missions have damaged planes, and some of them crash on landing with the aid of Stock Footage (only occasionally from the wrong part of the war).
    • One of the more memorable crashes uses stock footage from the wrong war entirely—the airplane is damaged as a twin-engine bomber from early in the war, approaches the carrier as a twin-engine fighter from late in the war, and crashes as a single-engine fighter from the Korean War.
  • Serenity—After being damaged by an EMP weapon, Serenity has to make a dead-stick crash landing at Mr. Universe's complex.
    • And the mule-swallow manoeuvre from the opening of the film - whilst the mule wasn't damaged to any great extent, it was certainly coming in hot. In fact, those very words might actually have been used...
  • Star Trek V the Final Frontier—A shuttlecraft has to land in the shuttlebay of the Enterprise without the usual tractor beams and other landing aids, so Kirk calls up Scotty and tells him to put into effect "Plan B...for Barricade!"
  • The Star Wars prequel trilogy comes close twice, both times with Anakin Skywalker involved. In Episode I, he accidentally crash-lands in the docking bay of the Droid Control Battleship. In Episode III, he and Obi-Wan intentionally crash-land in the docking bay of the Separatist star destroyer to board the ship and rescue the kidnapped Chancellor Palpatine.
    • Not to mention the "Not to worry, we are still flying half a ship," scene shortly after that, when Anakin crashlands literally "half a ship." After almost burning it to a crisp on its descent through the atmosphere. Obi-Wan even says "we're coming in too hot!".
      • Amusingly, the absurd 'half a ship' scene actually still remembers to give a valid justification for why Anakin is attempting that crazy a landing -- they cannot abandon ship because Grievous already ditched all the escape pods, and since the crash is about to occur in an urban area a minimum of one person would have to remain onboard anyway in order to try and ditch the wreck in an open area that will minimize casualties instead of letting it randomly fall on top of a skyscraper or something.
  • Top Gun—Cougar goes a bit crazy after the first MiG encounter, and has to be talked down, although there was nothing wrong with his plane. Maverick, who coached him down, was still chewed out—because his plane was very low on fuel, and the way he did it risked both planes rather than ensuring at least one made it back.
  • Wing Commander—The black female pilot takes severe damage to her ship. After a failure in the ejection system, she attempts a landing and crashes on deck, dying in the process.
  • The pre-credit sequence of It Came from Outer Space (1953) has the alien spacecraft (with sparks flying off it) crashlanding in the Arizona desert.
  • Airplane!!
  • One of these kicked off the "plot" of Space Mutiny.
    • If the first ten minutes were any indication, this movie's gonna BLOW!!!
    • My Buns of Steel videos were in there!!!
  • Probably the only non-flying example in movie history happens in Unstoppable, with a train.
    • Oops! Silver Streak
    • Arguably Speed (subway train) and Speed 2 (Cruise ship)
  • Red Tails. Deacon and Easy.
  • Happens late in Stealth, when Lt. Gannon's damaged plane ends up critically malfunctioning just as he comes in for a landing at an Alaskan airbase.
    • Subverted earlier when EDI, on approach to the aircraft carrier, nearly loses control after being struck by lightning. The deck crew, expecting this trope to play out in full, prepare the nets only to watch EDI correct his plane and land safely.


  • The Star Wars Expanded Universe will sometimes feature this, though rarely—repulsorlifts, a cheap and common technology, means most fighters are completely VTOL. The Thrawn Trilogy does have an instance of Mara Jade having to land on a planet with her repulsors offline, and it's pretty harrowing.
    • Probably the most memorable is from Starfighters of Adumar, in which we hear the Legend Of Tomer "Ejector" Darpen, a Y-Wing pilot forced to use the ship's landing skids after the repulsorlifts were damaged in a battle. The trope is played entirely straight, with a makeshift runway being hastily cleared, the ship bouncing up and down as he tries to land, rolling over completely, skidding to a halt at the very limit of safety, and the pilot slumps in relief. Then it's immediately subverted when Darpen's ejector seat misfires. Since he was stationed on a low-gravity moon, he actually achieved escape velocity and had to be retrieved from orbit. One of the members of Red Flight saw his expression just before and after it fired...
  • In a variation of this, a sequence near the beginning of The Sixth Battle, an Su-25 pilot is trying to land on Varyag and keeps getting waved off. It's not the plane that's in bad condition- it's the pilot, who excessively tired, makes a fatal error and crashes into the ski-ramp.
  • In the Dale Brown novel Air Battle Force, the EB-1C Vampire Patrick McLanahan and Rebecca Furness are on board has been damaged by enemy fire and he crash-lands it on Diego Garcia despite Furness and other American personnel telling him not to.
  • In the Lensmen universe, spacecraft are equipped with inertialess drives which allow them to instantly attain FTL speeds and stop on a dime. When the drive is switched off, however, the spacecraft resumes whatever intrinsic velocity it had before turning its drive on. Disaster can happen if two spacecraft with wildly different intrinsic velocities exchange cargo or passengers, and then switch their inertialess drives off. In one case, a badly injured passenger had to be surgically operated on while still inertialess, because the trauma of decelerating him from his intrinsic velocity would have killed him.
  • Flight of the Intruder: In the beginning of the book, the urgency of the landing coming from the badly injured Bombadier-Navigator on board.
  • Commissar Ciaphas Cain (HERO OF THE IMPERIUM!) references another possible definition in The Traitor's Hand, noting that a transport dropping Guardsmen into a combat zone is also referred to as "coming in hot". Naturally, the Elysians probably do that a lot.

Live Action TV

  • The Trope Namer is the original Battlestar Galactica. Since both series were about an Aircraft Carrier in Space, the pilot movie or Miniseries for each series had one of these.
    • In the original series, Starbuck's Viper is damaged in the first big battle, and he has to do a controlled crash landing.
    • In the Battlestar Galactica (2004 TV series)reimagined series, after the final big battle of the pilot Miniseries, Apollo's Viper is damaged, and Starbuck has to hook onto his fighter with hers and fly them both in to the landing bay, while the doors are closing.
      • The re-imagined series also gives us "combat landings," similar in execution, though not in set-up. When the Galactica needs to jump now and the Vipers are out, they'll disregard good landing technique in favor of just crashing their fighters onto the flight deck. Note that, in this series, it makes sense to take this risk, since the fighters are literally irreplaceable, and ejecting and being recovered really isn't an option. Ditching the fighter in ths case also means ditching the pilot.
      • Actually, there were at least two on-screen occasions of an ejected pilot being picked up by a Raptor flying SAR, though these happened either when there was no battle, or it was over: Hot Dog ditches after being severely damaged covering Starbuck during a training flight in season 1, while Apollo has to ditch from the Blackbird in season 2 after it proved too stealthy (and was crashed into by a Cylon raider). Starbuck also survived after ejecting (same fight that Hot Dog got recovered from), but she wasn't recovered by the SAR; she had to steal herself a crashed raider and fly that back.
      • Also it's unlikely Galactica would suffer much damage by a fighter crashing into the landing bay, since it's shown that it can take hits from nuclear warheads.
      • Which detonate outside of the armour, ignoring that nuclear explosions in space also lose their concussive oomph as there's nothing to concuss with. The reckless nature of the combat landings underscores the danger Galactica is facing, in that they're willing to risk losing a fighter and the hanger to a bad crash rather than simply write off the entirely irreplaceable fighters or pilots for certain.
    • As a flight cadet, Boomer in the Re-Imagined Series gets into hot water with Adama over her poor landings, and the subsequent second chance he gives her leads to her repaying this debt in a vital way at the climax of the series.
      • She could have saved people a lot of trouble by repaying that debt a few episodes earlier.
  • Andromeda—More than once, the Eureka Maru has to crash-land in the landing bay of the Andromeda Ascendant.
  • Crusade—Captain Lochley's Starfury gets damaged and disabled, and has to be landed on the Excalibur with the help of force-field crash barriers.
    • To be totally fair, the captain was ordered not to stop the ship, and was merely following orders.
    • Galen also comes in hot one time.
  • Supercarrier—This Top Gun rip-off TV series featured at least one episode with a land-based MiG-28 (played by an F-16 Falcon) landing on an American carrier with the aid of a crash barrier.
  • The phrase is used quite often in Stargate SG-1, but for a somewhat different context: In this case, it tends to refer to an SG team coming back through the gate while under fire, which features much of the same urgency of the trope played normally.
    • This is for good reason as saying "Stay away from the front of the event horizon", as Rodney was hit by a Wraith stunner shot in an Atlantis episode opening
  • Happens multiple times in JAG, and subverted once, with Harm in a damaged plane being told to eject, but he's insisting he can land it—cut to commercial—come back to him crashing then all the screens go blank around him, and we see he's in a simulator, with the instructor telling him "See, that's what would have happened if you'd tried to land it."
    • Indeed, a botched carrier landing is what forced Harm to leave the "brownshoe navy" and join the JAG corps in the first place. The botched landing was more due Harm's night blindness problem than a plane issue.

Video Games

  • The opening cinematic to R-Type Command has a smoking and severely damaged R-9 limp into the carrier's hangar and crash, with deck crew running to rescue the pilot.

Web Comics

  • Schlock Mercenary has a few. In one instance, after the enemy disables the power on their troop transport:

Legs: New flight plan, everybody. I'm going to bring us down really hard, and I'm not sure where. Also, I'm not steering.

Western Animation

  • Several episodes of Codename: Kids Next Door involve these at some point. "Operation L.O.C.K.D.O.W.N" opens with Numbuh One crashing into the hangar, setting up its Closed Circle plot. "Operation H.O.L.I.D.A.Y.", meanwhile, ends with Numbuh One on the other side of this, trying to guide Lizzie into successfully landing a plane that's coming in hot.
  • In an episode of American Dad Stan attempts a sex act with his wife Francine by barreling down a water slide to meet his wife at the bottom. When he realizes that his speed is higher than safety will allow he shouts "I'm coming in hot!" ending in a disastrous collision.

Real Life

  • Apollo 13 had barely enough power to run the instruments in the capsule, plus the explosion of one of the oxygen tanks may or may not have damaged the heat shield. If it was damaged, the ship would burn up on re-entry, and there was no way to get out and fix it. Plus, the crew was sleep-deprived, had spent four days in near-freezing cold, and one crew member was running a high fever due to a kidney infection. They made it.
  • Really, any spacecraft that's been damaged. Most notable (besides the above) are the space shuttle flights post-Columbia, if they had a similar foam strike. Justified in that, unlike aircraft, they can't eject to save themselves. The only way down is in the shuttle.
  • An Israeli Air Force F-15, during a 1983 training exercise, lost one wing in a mid-air collision. Pilot Zivi Nedivi increased throttle to maintain control, and (not knowing he was missing a wing) attempted a landing. He touched down at over 260 knots (double the normal landing speed), and though he caught the emergency arresting gear it ripped the tailhook off the plane; this slowed the plane enough that he got it stopped 20 feet short of the crash net.