50 Bizarre and Interesting Aviation Events and Stories

1Kamikaze pilots

Japanese Kamikaze pilots during the World War 2 were allowed to return if they didn't find a suitable target. One pilot was shot after his 9th return.


2. In 2014, pilot United Flight 1637 suffered a heart attack mid-flight, and so an off-duty air force captain, Mike Gongol, who was a passenger had to help land the plane, saving 160 lives. He knew he had to help when he heard the PA announcement “are there any non-revenue pilots on board, please ring your call button.”


3. Under certain conditions, a pilot not trained to fly by gyroscopic instruments can enter into a death spiral, believing that he is maintaining straight flight and be completely unaware that he is even turning.


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


5. In 1953, a North Korean fighter pilot named No Kum Sok defected to South Korea with his MiG-15. He received a reward of $100,000 offered by Operation Moolah for defecting with his aircraft. Operation Moolah was a US Air Force effort during the Korean War to obtain a MiG-15 jet fighter through defection. He claimed not to have heard about this operation prior to his defection.


6Night Witches

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.”


7. 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."


8. In 1994, a disgruntled FedEx employee named Auburn Calloway tried to hijack and crash a FedEx cargo flight, using hammers and a spear gun. Despite serious injuries during the attack, the pilot flew the DC-10 upside down at times in an attempt to pin the hijacker to the ceiling of the plane to stop him. The pilot performed maneuvers well beyond all known capabilities of the aircraft and landed it safely.


9. 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.”


10. 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.


11Jack Woolams

While test flying the first American jet plane, test pilot Jack Woolams wore a gorilla mask, a Durby hat, and a cigar just to mess with the other pilots he buzzed. The pilots were convinced they were crazy for seeing an airplane without propeller with a monkey at the controls.


12. 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.


13. During the Berlin Blockade of 1948, a pilot named Gail Halvorsen who was doing supply drops for the civilians became known as “Uncle Wiggly Wings” as well as “The Chocolate Uncle”, “The Gum Drop Kid” and “The Chocolate Flier” after he started dropping candy and chocolate from his plane and wiggling his wings so people knew it was him.


14. 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.


15. In 1960, a Russian terrorist named Alex Hildebrandt tried to hijack Trans Australia flight 408, armed with a bomb. Co-pilot Tom R. Bennett punched him in the face and ripped the wires off the bomb, saving 49 lives.


16Edward 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.


17. The two rival TV helicopter pilots, both men (Dana-Vahle, formerly Dirk, and Zoey Tur, formerly Bob), who duked it out for OJ Simpson police chase footage have since both had sex change operations and become female friends.


18. Famous aviator Charles Lindbergh served in World War 2 as a fighter pilot, despite still being a civilian. His wingman was known as "Fishkiller Miller" after he missed a target and accidentally killed thousands of nearby fish instead.


19. 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.


20. 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.


21Cornfield 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.


22. During the World War 2 naval battle of Leyte Gulf, an American pilot named Lt. Thomas C. Lupo made repeated attack runs against one of the largest battleships in history, Japan's IJN Yamato. After running out of ammunition, the pilot continued attacking, throwing a Coke bottle and other loose cockpit articles at the ship’s bridge.


23. 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 the Kansas.


24. 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.


25. The most isolated human being ever was Alfred Worden, command module pilot of Apollo 15, who in lunar orbit was at a maximum distance of 2,235 miles (3,597 km) from his fellow astronauts on the surface. While on the other side of the Moon, no communication with Earth or his comrades was possible.

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