What’s a chase plane?

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Chase aircraft follow and monitor other aircraft during flight, ensuring safety and documenting the flight with cameras. They also keep watch on the surrounding airspace for safety reasons and can guide an aircraft through an emergency landing. Skilled pilots are necessary for this task.

A chase aircraft is an aircraft that follows an aircraft during flight. Chase aircraft are used in experimental aircraft tests, and also to track aircraft such as the space shuttle and the planes used by world leaders for travel. The primary responsibility of a pursuit aircraft is to keep an eye on the safety of the aircraft it has been assigned to follow and to keep surrounding airspace clear for safety reasons.

Usually, a chase plane is crewed by a highly experienced pilot or a test pilot. Skilled pilots are needed to ensure that the pursuit plane successfully tracks the other plane and to provide constant feedback on the flight. The pilot of a pursuit plane may also be needed to help guide an aircraft through an emergency landing, using their perspective from outside the troubled aircraft to select a good place to land and help the pilot get there.

Most modern chase planes are equipped with cameras that document the flight of the other planes. The pilots of the aircraft involved can communicate directly, which can be critical in an emergency. Chase pilots also interface with the ground, providing flight status information and alerting people on the ground to any issues that may arise.

In addition to monitoring the plane itself, the pursuit planes also keep an eye on the sky. Experimental aircraft generally have a lot of enclosed airspace for testing, to ensure safety, and to protect the security of sensitive information. Chase planes warn of approaching planes, gliders and other craft that could drift into restricted airspace. They also watch for navigation hazards that might escape the test pilot’s eyes, allowing the test pilot to focus on handling his plane.

The images from the cameras on the chase planes are often quite interesting. Companies can use images of chase planes in promotional materials and meetings where the plane is discussed, showing people how the plane performs in the air. If problems develop during the flight, the images will be separated to discover the source of the problem and work to prevent future recurrences. In the case of a fatal crash, investigators also use footage from the chase plane to determine the cause of the crash and whether or not it could have been prevented.

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