Pilots eject from aircraft when it cannot be controlled any more. Ejection seems to happen without delay and few time to secure the aircraft and its weapons.

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Pilot ejection, source.

Thanks to @RonBeyer for pointing out the Cornfield Bomber which also links to a notable accident in 1989 with a MiG-23 flying 900 km and several countries, uncontrolled:

During takeoff [from Poland], the afterburner failed and the engine began losing power. At an altitude of 150 meters and descending, the pilot assumed he had a complete engine failure and ejected. [...] After flying over 900 km (560 mi) the MiG crashed into a house, killing a Belgian teenager.

What are the procedures or features in place to prevent the aircraft to keep flying and explosives to explode?

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    $\begingroup$ Related: Cornfield Bomber $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Feb 23, 2017 at 22:35
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    $\begingroup$ I don't believe there is a mechanism for this. The aircraft will crash (and possibly explode), the ordinance typically will not (shouldn't be armed until after launch), which is why a lot of ejecting pilots are commended with their ability to "direct the aircraft away from people" before ejecting. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Feb 23, 2017 at 22:42
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    $\begingroup$ Is it realistic to imagine the aircraft continuing to fly without pilots? The pilot is generally ejecting because the aircraft is no longer able to fly with a pilot, how could it then fly without? $\endgroup$
    – Notts90
    Feb 23, 2017 at 23:54
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    $\begingroup$ Devices? Does the ground count? $\endgroup$ Feb 24, 2017 at 2:04
  • $\begingroup$ I did say generally :) So the question is about the scenario where a pilot ejects unnecessarily. I'd hope this is extremely rare though as that incident proves, it is possible. I think the thought of ejection and having to explain millions of dollars going up in flames to your boss will keep it a rare event. $\endgroup$
    – Notts90
    Feb 24, 2017 at 7:56

2 Answers 2


As you pointed out, the only reason for abandoning an aircraft is because the pilot can no longer control it or successfully land it. With or without flight crew onboard, it's going down in one form or another. As such it's pointless to design any additional system to disable or destroy the aircraft as it accomplishes nothing.

Pilots however have been known to direct a stricken or otherwise doomed aircraft away from populated areas, as this Thunderbirds pilot did at a 2003 air show at Mountain Home AFB, in Idaho.

So too was this crash of a MiG-29 at the Paris Airshow in 1989. Mikoyan test pilot Victor Kobachev ingested a bird in his starboard engine and the jet departed controlled flight; Kobachev fought to direct it away from the crowd line before he punched out.

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    $\begingroup$ @mins An aggressor just shot your wing off, how do you decide where to crash? Explode in the air and you're just raining shrapnel down over possibly miles of people, at least when it crashes it is relatively contained. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Feb 23, 2017 at 22:54
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    $\begingroup$ Now I have heard stories of pilots having in flight emergencies where the crew directed the aircraft away from a populated area prior to abandoning the airplane. $\endgroup$ Feb 23, 2017 at 22:56
  • $\begingroup$ Here's the follow up to last year's crash by the Thunderbird after the AF Academy fly over. Great video from the Denver Post. Although the F-16 looks like it just landed in the field, it was totaled. $\endgroup$
    – Gerry
    Feb 24, 2017 at 13:07

In September 16, 2005, a Russian jet Su-27 crashed in Lithuania after running out fuel (navigation error) (ref1, ref2).

I cannot find the online sources after such a long time but I remember the pilot said that he used the last remaining fuel to bring the plane away from any settlements, before ejecting. The jet, indeed, crashed in the fields with no notable danger to the people.

From this looks like the pilot is responsible for discarding the plane safely, as much as this is still possible. In cases like running out of fuel might be possible.


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