26. Mathias Rust

In 1987, a West German teenager named Mathias Rust illegally flew a plane from Helsinki, Finland to Moscow, landed in the Red Square, and evaded the entire Soviet air defense system. – Source

27. During World War 2, Russia had an all-female bomber unit flying biplanes against the Germans. While two pilots distracted the searchlights, a third one would cut her engine and glide in to deliver her bombs. Altogether they had flown 23,000 bombing runs and the Germans dubbed them “Night Witches.” – Source

28. Hazel Ying Lee who was a Chinese-American World War 2 pilot, had two forced landings. One landing took place in a Kansas wheat field. A farmer, pitchfork in hand, chased her around the plane while shouting to his neighbors that the Japanese had invaded Kansas. – Source

29. In 2005, a pilot of Southwest Airlines Flight 1248 was concerned about the weather. He jokingly referenced the movie ‘Airplane!’, saying “I picked a bad day to stop sniffin’ glue,” shortly before his plane crashed. – Source

30. Ken Taylor and George Welch were two of the US pilots who were able to take off during the attack on Pearl Harbor and down 7 enemy aircrafts. They were denied the Medal of Honor because their commanding officer said they had “taken off without orders.” – Source

31. Merlyn Hans Dethlefsen

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 aircraft following him. – Source

32. James Stewart is the highest-ranking actor in military history (Brigadier General). He was World War 2 and Vietnam War veteran and a licensed commercial pilot. In 1996, he was due to have the battery in his pacemaker changed, but opted not to, preferring to let things happen naturally. – Source

33. On 9/11, some jet fighters took to the air without live ammunition, knowing that to prevent the hijackers from striking their intended targets, the pilots might have to intercept and crash their fighters into the hijacked planes, ejecting at the last moment. – Source

34. 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. – Source

35. In 2014, an airline pilot ordered 30 pizzas for his passengers, after finding out they would be delayed 2 hours for weather. The pizzas were delivered within 30 minutes by Domino’s and were cleared by security and sent directly to the plane in an official airport vehicle. – Source

36. Lockheed U2 pilots

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. – Source

37. 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. – Source

38. 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. – Source

39. In 1943, a Luftwaffe pilot named Franz Stigler refused to destroy a damaged B-17 Flying Fortress. The German pilot named Charlie Brown escorted the B-17 to the English Channel and then saluted the American pilot and returned home. 40 years later they were reunited and developed a deep friendship that lasted until their deaths. – Source

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…” – Source

41. Cornfield Bomber

In 1970, a fighter jet landed itself on a cornfield in Montana after the pilot ejected from it following an unrecoverable spin. His act of ejection changed the center of gravity of the plane, allowing it to recover. It went back into service after minor repair work. – Source

42. A test pilot named Thomas W. Attridge Jr. accidentally shot his own aircraft down while testing the F-11 Tiger. After firing a short burst at 13,000 feet, he accelerated into a dive and leveled off to fire another burst at 7,000 feet, where he was struck by the bullets he’d fired earlier. – Source

43. Without notice or warning to Boeing executives, test pilot Tex Johnson did a barrel roll with his Boeing 707 over Lake Washington in Seattle, at an air show that had a lot of potential customers in attendance. When asked by his boss “What the hell were you doing?” Johnson responded “Selling airplanes.” He was not terminated. – Source

44. 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. – Source

45. 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. – Source

46. Edward O’Hare

The O’Hare Airport is named after an American fighter pilot named Edward O’Hare who was the lone defender during an attack on his carrier. He was killed leading the first night defense against a Kamikaze attack. Two years earlier, his own father was murdered for being the only man willing to testify against Al Capone. – Source

47. 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. – Source

48. In 1985, a Boeing 747 China Airlines Flight 006 tumbled nearly 5.7 miles straight down before the pilots were able to get back control, just seconds before crashing. No one died. – Source

49. American game show host Bob Barker was trained as a Navy fighter pilot in World War 2, but wasn’t sent to a fleet squadron in time to fight. He once said: “I was all ready to go, and when the enemy heard that I was headed for the Pacific, they surrendered. That was the end of World War II.” – Source

50. In 1973, Concorde pilots chased a solar eclipse across the Sahara desert at Mach 2. They extended it from 7 minutes to 74. – Source


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