Obviously, having to eject from a multi-million dollar aircraft of any kind is the last thing on a pilot's bucket list (and is dangerous enough to actually be the last thing on the pilot's bucket list). The truth is that, as in any military job function, things don't always go as planned, even for the men and women fighting at a few thousand feet above the Earth.


The technology surrounding the ejection of any pilot is really incredible. After more than a century in the making, ejections can be made at supersonic speeds and at altitudes where there is little oxygen in the air. The canopy blows open, the air rushes in, and in one-tenth of a second, the pilot(s) are on their way to safety. The tech has come a long way since and the chances of a successful ejection are up from 50% in the 1940s. A lot happened in the meantime. Here are 11 things  you may not have known before.

1. The first successful ejection was in 1910 and was initiated by bungee cord.

In 1916, one of the inventors of a type of parachute also invented an ejection seat powered by compressed air.

2. The German Luftwaffe perfected the ejection seat during WWII. The first combat ejection was in 1942.

The Focke-Wulf FW190 Würger testing ejection seat

Two German companies, Heinkel and SAAB (of the automobile fame) were working on their own types of ejection seats. The pilot of the first ejection bailed out because his control surfaces iced over.

3. Some aircraft, like the supersonic F-111, used pods to eject the crews. The B-58 Hustler tested its ejection system by ejecting bears.

The B-48 used an ejection capsule because of its airspeed. Though many animals have been used for testing seats, the bear was the most noteworthy. The only animal to die during testing had a pre-existing brain condition. Every other animal was fine.

4. The first zero-zero seat was designed in 1961 so pilots could eject from the ground while the jet was parked.

Not Goose, of course. (Should have followed F-14 NATOPS boldface procedures. RIP, shipmate . . .)