Quite possibly the weirdest story in all of aviation. A pilot ejects, the jet crash lands…the jet gets repaired and then the pilot flies it again!
Like any Avgeek, there’s nothing better than reading about or even hearing first-hand unusual or oddball aviation stories. Most of them are comical, some are mysterious, and then you have some that will just leave you scratching your head. Personally I love them all, and the one I’m about to pass along has a little bit of all the above.
On February 2, 1970, Major Gary Foust and three other squadron mates from the 71st Fighter Interceptor Squadron, took off from Malmstrom Air Force Base located in Great Falls, Montana. The flight of four were all flying the Convair F-106A Delta Dart, but upon takeoff one of the aircraft in the four ship formation was forced to abort due to a mechanical issue, so the remaining three continued on for the training sortie.
According to Major Foust, the three aircraft were at about forty-thousand feet practicing aerial combat maneuvers. After coming head-to-head with his opponent, (the third aircraft from his squadron) they entered into a “vertical scissors” maneuver. During this time while performing a high speed rudder roll, the aircraft began to gyrate violently sending it into to an uncontrollable left turn flat spin.
While spinning out of control and falling out of the sky, Major Foust frantically went through his emergency checklists while trying to recover the aircraft from the spin. Finally after being prompted by his wingman, he ejected from the aircraft at approximately eight-thousand feet.
This is where the story gets weird…
Once Major Faust ejected, he witnessed the aircraft immediately point nose down, recover from the spin, and fly off! The plane flew to what he says was a number of miles away, before successfully belly-landing itself in a snow covered wheat field outside of a town called Big Sandy, Montana. At that point, the aircraft skidded a couple hundred yards where it came to rest with the engine still running at idle power until it ran out of fuel.
Once the Delta Dart was recovered and discovered to only have minor damage, it was sent to McClellan Air Force Base in California to be repaired and returned to service.
While serving at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida nine years later, Major Foust found himself piloting the same Delta Dart in which he ejected out of previously. When his squadron commander realized the significance of the aircraft in their squadron, he made sure that the pair would be joined once again. Fortunately, Major Foust never had to share the same experience with his aircraft as they did previously. He jokes that somebody gave it the nickname “Cornfield Bomber,” but to him it should be called the “Wheatfield Fighter.”
The Convair F-106A Delta Dart [S/N: 58-0787] that Major Gary Foust flew that day was finally retired and flown to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio in August of 1986. It is now preserved and on display in the Cold War gallery of the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton.