Unusual and Fascinating Aviation Incidents: 45 Stories 2

26Manfred von Richthofen

Manfred von Richthofen

In 1916, a German fighter pilot named Manfred von Richthofen was considered a below average pilot who crashed during his first flight at the controls. Upon his death two years, and 80 aerial kills later, the British buried The Red Baron with full military honors out of respect for his skill as an aviator.

27. German World War 2 pilots in North Africa would fix bottles of Coca Cola to the underside of their wings so that the drink would cool at high altitude and be ready to drink after landing.

28. During the World War 2, a Soviet pilot named T. Kuznetsov, survived the crash of his Ilyushin Il-2 when shot down returning from a reconnaissance mission. Kuznetsov escaped from the wreck and hid nearby. To his surprise, a German Bf 109 fighter landed near the crash site and the pilot began to investigate the wrecked Il-2, possibly to assist Kuznetsov, or to look for souvenirs. Thinking quickly, Kuznetsov ran to the German fighter and used it to fly home, barely avoiding being shot down by Soviet fighters in the process.

29. The movie "Behind Enemy Lines" told the story backward. The downed pilot named Scott O'Grady was rescued with full NATO cooperation and was in fact put into danger by a US general releasing information to the press. The pilot sued Fox over the movie and they settled out of court.

30. In 1968, a Japanese pilot named Kohei Asoh landed Japan Airlines Flight 2 near Coyote Point in the shallow waters of San Francisco Bay, two and a half miles short of the runway due to heavy fog and other factors. When asked about it, he replied “As you Americans say, I f*cked up.”

31Sergeant Sydney Cohen

Sergeant Sydney Cohen

In World War 2, a British pilot named Sergeant Sydney Cohen made an emergency landing on the Italian island of Lampedusa, only to have the island surrender to him.

32. NASA pilots routinely intercepted and defeated U.S. Navy Phantom II's in mock dogfights, until complaints from the Navy put an end to the harassment.

33. A Russian pilot named Pyotr Nesterov was both the first pilot to fly a loop in an airplane and the first to destroy an enemy aircraft in flight. He died during the latter attempt because planes did not have weapons and he had to ram it.

34. In 1943, American pilot Alan Magee survived a fall from 20,000 feet without a parachute. He fell from his damaged B-17 Flying Fortress and smashed through the glass roof of the St. Nazaire railroad station. He survived and lived to the age of 82.

35. In May 1983, two Israeli Air Force aircrafts, an F-15 Eagle and an A-4 Skyhawk, collided in mid-air during a training exercise over the Negev region in Israel. Notably, the F-15 – with a crew of two – managed to land safely at a nearby airbase, despite having its right wing almost completely sheared off in the collision.

36Airline pilots

Airline pilots

Airline pilots in the 1930s and 40s would navigate by listening to a stream of automated "A" and "N" Morse codes when visibility was poor. They would turn the aircraft to the right when hearing an "N" stream, to the left on an "A" stream and fly straight ahead while hearing a steady tone.

37. Lockheed U2 pilots were given cyanide suicide pills. After a pilot almost accidentally ingested a suicide pill instead of candy during a flight, the suicide pills were put into boxes to avoid confusion.

38. After both of the leaders of his squadron were shot down over Vietnam in 1967, American fighter pilot Merlyn Dethlefsen flew his damaged fighter back through enemy air defenses to scare off enemy fighters, then knocked out both missile sites defending the target, saving 70 of the 72 friendly aircrafts following him.

39. During the late World War 2, the Nazis designed a plane named the Messerschmitt Me 163 Komet. It flew so fast that it was untouchable by enemies, but it went so fast that its own pilots weren't capable of shooting enemy aircrafts before their plane flew past their adversaries.

40. In 1978, an Australian pilot named Frederick Valentich and his plane disappeared during a supposed UFO encounter. His last communication was “Melbourne that strange aircraft is hovering on top of me again... (two seconds open microphone)... it is hovering and it's not an aircraft...”

41Lt Colonel William Rankin

Lt Colonel William Rankin

In 1959, a pilot named Lt Colonel William Rankin ejected from his plane directly into a violent thunder cloud. The storm winds kept him aloft for 40 minutes, pelting him with hailstones and so much rain that at times he had to hold his breath to keep from drowning in mid-air. He survived.

42. Chuck Yeager (first man to officially break the sound barrier) as a fighter pilot in World War 2 downed 5 enemy aircraft in a single mission. Two of these kills were scored without firing a single shot.

43. World War 2 fighter pilot James Howard won the medal of honor for single-handedly taking on more than 30 German fighter planes all by himself to protect a group of American bomber planes.

44. In some of the earliest displays of stunt flying, a pilot named Eugène Lefebvre would fly directly at terrified spectators, turning away only at the last second. He is also the first person to die while piloting a powered aircraft and the second person to be killed in a powered airplane crash.

45. In 1969, a Swedish pilot named Carl Gustaf von Rosen, disgusted by the genocide of the Biafran people, built his own fighter airplanes and fought the Nigerian Air Force with a band of friends.