In "Captain America: The First Avenger", Cap treats having to suicidally crash the Hydra bomber into the Arctic as an urgent necessity to save New York. This HISHE video and common sense point out...

  • Cap has control of the plane.
  • The bombs weren't on a timer or set to explode.
  • The bombs required pilots, whom he'd taken care of.
  • He'd demonstrated he can eject the bombs.
  • He'd demonstrated he can skillfully pilot the bombs to safety.

Why was it so urgent that he couldn't take a few minutes to come up with an escape plan? Try to land it on the ice. Or look for a parachute. Or point it at the ground and leave in a bomb-plane. Or just land it at some very remote runway.

It's weakly implied that Cap has to fight the autopilot to crash it. Could he not have just wrecked it? Or wrecked the plane from the inside? Or started a fire? Or any number of other ways to cause the plane to crash in a way that would allow him the seconds to escape in a bomb-plane?

Even so, what is the threat to New York when it arrives with no-one to set off the bombs?

The film offers us a glance at some readout while Cap says "there's not going to be a safe landing" as if that offers some explanation.

Hydra bomber status display

He says "there's not enough time, this thing is moving too fast and it's heading for New York". When he declares "Right now I'm in the middle of nowhere" we're shown a map. I can't identify what his location is. Can you?

Hydra bomber map

Even a supersonic bomber would need hours to reach New York from the Arctic (the Great Circle route from Germany to NYC makes landfall in Newfoundland so why was he over the Arctic? Anyway...), and this is a subsonic propeller driven aircraft (I don't care how much Smurfy blue magic Hydra put into it).

Is there a missing scene? Is Cap just really bad at navigation?

I know the out of universe explanation was to set up his "frozen in the ice" origin and The Avengers. In universe, please.

  • 19
    It actually is even worse. As he proves in his next movie, from a plane flying as low as this one, he does not even need a chute!! All he needed to do was give Peggy his coordinates, point the nose downward (which he manages), wedge something heavy (for example a dead hydra goon) in between, so it continues going down, jump, swim to the next iceshelf and wait for Howard or the Howling Commandos to pick him up. You're asking for an in-universe explanation for what is argueably the biggest plothole of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I'm curious about the answers people may find...
    – BMWurm
    Commented Dec 16, 2014 at 21:44
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    There aren't any GOOD answers. There were too many holes in this particular scenario and not enough explanation or setup to explain why the plane needed to crash... Hey how about some engine fires, or timers on the bombs, or radiation leakage or I don't know, a screenwriting team whose heads aren't so firmly planted up their <censored>. Commented Dec 16, 2014 at 22:03
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    @BMWurm The "not needing a chute" thing is easy: he only jumps from high altitude without a chute into water (like the Indian Ocean in Cap2), and this water was absolutely, fatally freezing. Even if he missed hitting an iceberg and going splat, he'd likely freeze to death in minutes or hours while a rescue operation in 1945 to the Arctic might take days or a week. When he's jumping over land from higher than a few stories (such as in Cap1 or The Avengers), he does use a chute. Remember: even after surviving the crash, he DID nearly freeze to death, and that was without being in the water.
    – Nerrolken
    Commented Dec 16, 2014 at 23:07
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    @Nerrolken "he DID nearly freeze to death" - more like "he did freeze, nearly to death", after all it was esesentialy kriogenics.
    – Deltharis
    Commented Dec 16, 2014 at 23:45
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    Because they had to get him frozen in time somehow... Commented Dec 17, 2014 at 11:23

2 Answers 2


My reading of the scene was that the autopilot was locked on and that he couldn't see any way of disabling it. The plane did respond to his manually moving the column but as soon as he let go, the plane immediately reverted to its original heading:

  • 01:40.13 : Rogers moves the column as he sits down. The autopilot bleeps and shows him the projected location; Ziel (Target) : New York. As he releases it, it resumes tracking and we see the plane on a straight and level flight. Schmidt has locked it!

  • 01:40.45 : Rogers is flicking switches that don't appear to do anything. He spots that the plane is mere minutes from its destination (having traveled from Germany to the North Pole in under 30 mins) and is still armed with at least two active bombs.

  • 01:46.03 : Our hero forces the control column forwards. This points the bomber downwards. He keeps flying manually until the bomber hits the ice.

Could he have wedged the controls? Yes, possibly, but what if the wedge had moved? Was it worth risking 7.5 million lives in the hopes that whatever he jerry-builds in the next five minutes doesn't work itself loose. The film's junior Novelisation gives us some idea of his thought process;

On the Valkyrie, Steve thought about this. He wrestled with the controls and started to understand that the plane was too damaged to trust. The steering yoke barely moved to the right and left… but it did seem to go up and down. He leaned into the mike to make sure Peggy could hear him over the howl of the wind through the broken cockpit window. “This thing’s moving too fast and it’s headed for New York,” he said. “I gotta put it in the water.” Peggy’s voice crackled back at him immediately. “Please! Don’t do this. We have time.…”

In the end he decided that the only safe way to ensure that it crashed was to put it in the drink himself.

  • 3
    +1. There was also the consideration (I think it's mentioned in the dialogue, but I don't have access to the film right now) that IF he was going to crash it, he needed to do it immediately before the plane approached a populated area along its route. So even if there was another option, he didn't have time to think of it before he lost the chance to do this one.
    – Nerrolken
    Commented Dec 16, 2014 at 22:54
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    @Nerrolken - At the speed he's traveling, he'd be over parts of canada within minutes.
    – Valorum
    Commented Dec 16, 2014 at 23:17
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    Oh well, 7.5M people died because my "tie it with a belt" solution didn't work. Heck, at least I made it out ok.
    – Valorum
    Commented Dec 16, 2014 at 23:26
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    @Robotnik - Check the edit. The novelisation indicates that turning the plane was out of the question. It barely deflects at all.
    – Valorum
    Commented May 7, 2016 at 23:02
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    @Schwern - Your logic and sensible questioning have no place here.
    – Valorum
    Commented Oct 29, 2022 at 5:48

(In commenting on Richard's answer, I figured out a plausible explanation.)

The bomb Cap falls out of the airplane with is the one labelled for New York. He flies it back, wedging it into the tail of plane. Upon launch, the bomb was armed and activated [speculation]. Once armed, Hydra GPS automatically triggers the bomb over New York City [speculation]. The pilot was expected to have bailed out outside the blast radius [based on similar historical designs].

This is how the "real" Daimler-Benz Project F flying bomb was to have worked, minus the GPS part, and with only a 3000kg warhead. It was a parasite aircraft carried in a Project C bomber. The pilot was supposed to dive at the target and bail out before impact. This was mostly so German engineers didn't have to admit they were designing a suicide weapon.

Cap still could have gone back and shoved it out of the plane. He's also shown himself to a very good pilot with that flying bomb, he could have landed it on the ice.

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