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So, in Iron Man (2008), Iron Man has flaps he can pull for dead fall. Why couldn't he have done the same for Rhodey in Civil War in order to break his fall?

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    Rhody may well have been a pilot and had his flying license, but it seems to have been dramatic license that was needed at the time. Jun 28, 2022 at 2:32

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When Iron Man was testing the first suit (the first one built after he returned to the US, colored plain steel), he was trying to go as high as possible. His suit was blocked by ice, and then, after several seconds of freefall, it unblocked when he was very very high. And he was able to pull himself up just 20 cm above the ground.

Rhodey was merely 20 meters above ground when he froze in midair with the Iron Patriot, with a suit several kilos more heavy than him. What's suprising is that he didn't end as flat as a pancake. He was able to walk out of that with just a broken spine (probably thanks to plot armor).

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    "Walk out" + "broken spine" = does not compute
    – JRE
    Jun 28, 2022 at 8:29
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    Originally that pun wasn't intended, but now that you noted, it is. Jun 28, 2022 at 8:40
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The two failure scenarios had a pretty fundamental difference - the arc reactors powering the suits. In Iron Man Tony's suit had iced up and stopped functioning but was otherwise undamaged, including the arc reactor. Essentially he was attempting to free up the icing and restart the suit's systems which he succeeded in doing. It wasn't the flaps that saved him from hitting the ground - it was getting the suit's systems functioning again and therefore being able to pull out of the dive.

In Rhodey's situation the arc reactor that powered the suit had been destroyed by Vision's mind-stone beam. There was nothing to power the suit's systems so he was on a one-way express ticket to the ground.

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