Let's say for whatever reason, miscued ejection system perhaps, a jet in flight at exactly mach 1 blew its canopy but did not eject the pilot. And we can assume the altitude is fairly low (to exclude the attendant freezing/suffocation that would ensue).

My friend and I have been arguing about this. He insists that it would result in catastrophic damage to the jet due to a sudden lack of aerodynamic stability and that the pilot would be grievously harmed or killed.

For my own part, I'm just not so sure. It seems to me that if said pilot was wearing a JHMC or some helmet with visor that he'd have plenty of time to react and set the aircraft safely down. And could probably do 400 knots comfortably on his way home to complain about the faulty ejection.

And I figured a jet is so very large and aerodynamic over its entire body, without the canopy it'd be less so, but still not so badly that the thing would be torn to pieces as a result, right?

The only similar story I could find was of an F-14 that lost its canopy, but the pilot only mentioned going 320 knots and it not being as loud as he expected.

So mach 1 is a key part of this question, I think. I can't find a reasonable answer to settle our dispute, someone please help! I really want to settle this. Thanks in advance.

  • $\begingroup$ Felix Baumgartner went supersonic, basically wearing a space suit. However, I don't think a typical F-15 pilot is so well protected. He may well be choked by his helmet-chin strap as the intense winds pull the helmet up. His facemask would probably break away and pound him in the head and body with incredible force. $\endgroup$
    – abelenky
    Dec 28, 2018 at 17:10
  • $\begingroup$ @abelenky: Not to mention that Felix went supersonic at altitudes where the atmosphere is way way way less dense (and the aerodynamic forces on the human body are correspondingly much much much weaker) than at those under discussion here. $\endgroup$
    – Vikki
    Nov 13, 2019 at 22:17

1 Answer 1


Several F15's have had incidents of canopy loss, and all the ones I have found came back and landed safely. The latest incident I can find was in 2014 off Okinawa. I see no reason why there would be any such catastrophic failure of anything on the aircraft unless the canopy impacted some part of the aircraft as it departed. Ejection systems are designed to allow the crew to exit the aircraft at pretty much the entire flight envelope. Yes, at supersonic speeds the crewmember will probably be sore for quite some time, but it's been tested and used in real life and it works.


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