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"Who on board is smart enough to fix the propeller, but stupid enough to climb out there to do it?"
Scrooge McDuck, The Uncrashable Hindentanic

Our heroes are in an aircraft, falling. Perhaps they've been shot down, or maybe their vehicle didn't work in the first place. No need to worry, though. Someone (usually the Gadgeteer Genius or Mad Scientist of the cast) will get everything back into working order. In mid-air. Before hitting the ground.

This can be as simple as flipping some switches (Anakin pulled this one off with his podracer) or climbing out and cranking the engine until it restarts. Of course, there's also the option of rebuilding the engine in midair.

Depending on how fast you're falling when you finally pull out of the dive, you might be acting under the assumption that it's Not the Fall That Kills You.

Examples of Midair Repair include:


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Anime & Manga

  • Read or Die has two examples - once in the original OVA, where Yomiko's paper airplane takes a nosedive off of a skyscraper because she forgot the tail, and once in the TV series, where a crashing jumbo jet is saved by wrapping it in paper and turning it into a giant bird.
  • In an episode of Code Geass R2, not only was Kallen's Humongous Mecha repaired as it was falling into the ocean, it was upgraded.
  • In Air Gear, tuner(read: Wrench Wench) Kururu Sumeragi rebuilds main character Ikki's titular Cool Rollerblades. Rather than being with him when starting the fall, she jumps off a building to tackle him as he falls, and proceeds to dismantle and rebuild the mass of tiny parts.

 Kururu: How many seconds until impact?!

Ikki: Uh... Three seconds... I'd guess?

Kururu: Three seconds?! (thinking during two-page spread of her spilling tools from her backpack) In that case... I've got more than enough time!

(And Kururu very quickly rebuilds Ikki's skates.)

Comic Books

  • Played with in Ultimate X-Men where Jean rather sarcastically mentions to Beast that he doesn't have to do mid-air repairs when the plane is functioning fine.
  • In JSA Secret Files #1, Speed Saunders does a mid-air patch job on his hot air balloon after it springs a leak while aloft.

Film

  • Happens in Meet the Robinsons - the main character fixes his plane/time machine in midair by... er, rerouting some cables in the Jeffries tubes or something.
  • In The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai, the title character jump-starts his ship while it's falling toward the ground.
  • When their airplane had run out of fuel in The Gods Must Be Crazy II, the pilot got a bottle of wine they had with them and poured it into the fuel tank.
  • In Riders Of The Storm (one of Dennis Hopper's lesser known works), one character has to crawl out onto the wing of a B-29-cum-pirate radio station to fix one of the engines inflight.
  • Parodied in Ice Age 3, when Buck performs mouth-to-mouth on a pterosaur knocked unconscious by a mid-air collision.
  • The Millenium Falcon is the Trope Namer for What a Piece of Junk! for a reason, especially in the Expanded Universe.
  • The trope name is basically the job description for R2 units.
  • Parodied in Hot Shots when Topper's dad tried to make repairs to his fighter as it was crashing. This included everything from stapling sheet metal onto the nose to holding the wing on by hooking his feet to the fuselage.
  • In Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines, Orville takes Patricia up in his flying machine, and even lets her control it. But one of the wing spars breaks, so he walks out on the wing and fixes it by wrapping his belt around it, losing his pants in the process. All turns out well.

Literature

  • In the World War II novel Hornet Flight, the hero has to refuel his plane in mid-air.
  • In Farmer In The Sky, by Robert A. Heinlein, Bill Lermer's father explains why they have an engineer along in space, when the engine is a radioactive torch that can't be shut off in flight.

 "There are certain adjustments which could conceivably have to be made in extreme emergency. In which case it would be Mr. Ortega's proud privilege to climb into a space suit, go outside and back aft, and make them."

"You mean--"

"I mean that the assistant chief engineer would succeed to the position of chief a few minutes later. Chief engineers are very carefully chosen, Bill, and not just for their technical knowledge."

  • In the Doctor Who Expanded Universe novel The Dying Days, the Doctor -- five minutes above London, downward bound and accelerating -- builds a parachute out of a helium tank and the contents of his pockets.

Live Action TV

  • Happens in an episode of Father Ted where Ted patches up the fuel line of the plane he and Dougal are flying on.
  • Stargate SG-1 had some mid-space repairs (as it turns out, Tok'ra ships are one of the most unreliable kinds of technology ever invented), often involving a Race Against the Clock.
    • In the Tok'ra's defense, however, they're not building the ships. They're stealing them from the Goa'uld, and as a result can't pick and choose, and can't find lots of spare parts.
    • This problem isn't limited to the Tok'ra, however. The human-built ships aren't much better. For example, on the official maiden voyage of the first human spaceship, the Prometheus, the hyperdrive overloaded and had to be ejected before destroying the ship. And the list goes on...
  • Because the TARDIS is the Cool Ship version of The Alleged Car, the Doctor has had to do this a couple of times. For example, in "The Edge of Destruction", the Doctor has to fix the TARDIS before it hits the Big Bang and is destroyed, and in "The Eleventh Hour", the Doctor, having almost destroyed the interior of the TARDIS with his violent regeneration, must use his Sonic Screwdriver to repair the ship enough to actually land, just before it hits Big Ben, while he's hanging out the door.
  • In a first season episode of MacGyver, Mac uses a map to patch his hot air balloon when it springs a leak after being shot.
    • In the later episode "Rock the Cradle", Mac has to unjam the landing gear on a plane as Jack Dalton is bringing it in for a landing. He succeeds, but falls out the plane (he is wearing a parachute).

Video Games

  • LEGO Star Wars: Revenge Of The Brick has a lot of this. Considering it's LEGO. Anakin even manages to make an entire biplane, then a starfighter, while floating in space!
  • Blazing Angles incorporates a teammate who can "heal" your craft during missions. The game tries to Hand Wave it by having your character perform the actual repair, while being talked through it by your teammate.

Web Comics

  • There's a hilarious example of this in Girl Genius, when Gilgamesh and Agatha are first testing Gilgamesh's Flying Machine (or rather, as Agatha sourly points out, "It's a falling machine. I'm so impressed.") by starting from Baron Wulfenbach's airship. As they both slip into Spark-mode, their growing excitement about repairing and upgrading the ship in mid-flight almost fatally distracts them from the approaching doom.

 Gilgamesh: There's a WHOLE BUNCH of stuff we can get rid of! HELP ME UNBOLT THE ENGINE!

Agatha: ...Ummm... Of course, we are still falling.

Gilgamesh: What? Oh, that. This wire was loose.

Western Animation

  • Kim Possible did it when her brothers, tagging along for some contrived reason, unbolted a hydraulic line in the cabin of a cargo plane. It was an easy fix, but one that would have been impossible for a number of reasons in a real aircraft.

Real Life

  • In Real Life, NASA does occasionally send up astronauts to repair stuff, which is kind of in midair by default and falling at an atrocious speed. Just not in danger of hitting the ground.
    • Wouldn't a Midair Repair require something else? Perhaps this something would be...air?
      • They have to bring their own.
    • Well, as Arthur Dent would point out, the art of flying is all about managing to avoid hitting the ground while falling.
    • The crew of Apollo 13 effected a successful repair of their craft and safely returned to Earth after one of their Oxygen tanks exploded (as seen in the film).
  • In Real Life, Zeppelin crews would routinely have to do this after too many engine failures. The good news is that airships are far more forgiving of engine failures than airplanes are.
    • Additionaly, many older multi-engine airplanes (mostly made during/before the 1950s) were actually designed so a mechanic could access the engines mid-flight through a cramped tunnel burried in the wing. Even earlier airplanes (First World War vintage) considered it a matter of routine for the mechanic to do a wing-walk to maintain the notably finicky engines while the plane was underway. These days engines are so reliable that a breakdown is considered truely exceptional rather than uncommon.
      • Not that today's airplane engineers like to take any chances on that account: recognizing the impossibility of midair repairs on today's engines, it is required by FAA law that today's multi-engine planes have enough engine power to remain in control in the event of catastrophic loss of an engine. Maybe not enough control to get where you were planning on going, but at least enough to make your way to the nearest major airport.
        • Related to this requirement is a requirement for airliners that intend to fly transoceanic routes: Essentially, they have to be airworthy with an engine out (which is why many older airliners had four engines). The requirement allowing twin engined airliners to fly such routes is called ETOPS, Extended-range Twin-engine Operational Performance Standards. Also known as Engine Turns Or Passengers Swim
  • The B-36 Peacemaker was so large that it had a crawlspace in its wings, which meant that, theoretically, brave crewmen could crawl to the engines and fix them in flight. Perhaps thankfully, this was never tested.
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