It would appear no one was more surprised than the pilot when he and a back-seat “observer” ejected from the MiG-23 they were flying at a Michigan airshow Aug. 13. In the preliminary report on the incident, the NTSB says pilot and aircraft owner Dan Filer did not order the ejection but the back-seater might have. “The pilot reported that he was not ready to eject and was still troubleshooting the problem and maneuvering the airplane toward runway 27 at YIP when his ejection seat fired, and he was out of the airplane,” the report said. “He stated that if either occupant pulls the ejection handle, both seats ejected.”
The observer told investigators he believed he and the pilot “needed to get out” after discussing the issue, but he’s not absolutely certain he commenced the ejection. “When asked if he had pulled the ejection seat handles, he stated that he could not specifically remember but thinks that he would have pulled them,” the report says. The Cold War Soviet swing wing fighter was part of the closing act of the Thunder Over Michigan airshow at Willow Run Airport and was setting up for a second pass over the runway when the ejection occurred. The aircraft ended up on the lawn beside an apartment building in Belleville, Michigan, and no one on the ground was injured. Both occupants of the plane ended up in a lake with unspecified but non-life-threatening injuries and were quickly rescued.