The noise, the crowd, thousands of horsepower and aerial stunts are only some of the reasons many of us love air shows. With so many aircraft flown by just as many personalities, there's always something exciting to see. One thing we hope to never see at air shows? A pilot pulling the ejection handle, as the following moments are only measured in degrees of catastrophe.
The above photo shows Captain Chris Stricklin ejecting from his F-16C Falcon after he miscalculated a maneuver during a 2003 air show at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. He was able to guide the $20 million fighter away from the crowd of 60,000 spectators and ejected safely, 0.8 seconds before impact. Nobody was hurt.
The photo below captures a different scenario: one of the pilots of this Ukrainian Air Force Sukhoi Su-27 is seen ejecting over a crowd of 10,000 people during a 2002 commemorative air show at Sknyliv airfield, just before the jet begins to tumble through the spectators. Like the above incident, pilot error is the official cause of blame for the crash. Unlike above, the Su-27 exploded as it plowed through the crowd, killing 77, hospitalizing over 100 and creating the deadliest air show accident in history.