An F-35 that went missing in South Carolina might have flown on autopilot after its pilot ejected.
There have been other similarly surprising incidents.
In 1970, an aircraft nicknamed the "Cornfield Bomber" pulled off an unmanned landing.
It's possible that an F-35 stealth fighter that went missing over South Carolina flew on its own for a time after its pilot ejected. A little more than fifty years ago, the US military encountered a similarly surprising situation with a plane that landed itself and was later nicknamed the "Cornfield Bomber."
On Sunday afternoon, Joint Base Charleston posted on Facebook reporting a "mishap involving an F-35B Lightning II jet," which meant the pilot had to eject. The base didn't provide further information on the incident or what caused the ejection, but it did ask for the public's help in locating the jet.
Officials haven't confirmed or denied whether the jet crashed, but a Joint Base Charleston spokesperson, Jeremy Huggins, told NBC News the jet was left in autopilot mode when the pilot ejected. This means it could've remained airborne for some time, although authorities were certain the F-35 was down as of midday Monday.
The US Marine Corps and Joint Base Charleston didn't immediately respond to requests for comment from Insider on these details.
While it's unclear what happened to the missing jet, it wouldn't be the first time a plane has carried on without its pilot. This was also seen in the curious 1989 case of a Soviet MiG-23 that flew more than 500 miles and crashed in NATO territory after its pilot ejected and a separate 50-year-old incident involving a US fighter-interceptor that landed on its own in a farmer's field in Montana after the pilot hopped out.
On February 2, 1970, 1st Lt. Gary Foust ejected from a Convair F-106 Delta Dart interceptor aircraft during a training exercise when the jet entered a flat spin. "It remained in that spin as I was going through the maneuvers, the emergency procedures, to recover," Foust said in a National Museum of the US Air Force video in October 2013, "and it did not recover."
After Foust ejected, the aircraft nose-dived before stabilizing, then remained airborne for a time while Foust drifted about 8,000 feet above the ground in his parachute.
But instead of crashing and leaving a broken plane amid scattered debris and wreckage, the F-106 made an apparently graceful landing in a snowy farmer's field in Montana. "It was about six inches of snow on the ground," Foust said, adding that it had "probably skidded some couple hundred yards or more and came to rest."
Shockingly, the F-106 suffered little damage during its belly landing beyond some underside skinning. "I was surprised that that was the case," Foust said. "I assumed it crashed, but the fact that it landed by itself was obviously a shock to everyone."
The unusual event earned his aircraft its "Cornfield Bomber" nickname, and shortly after it was taken to McClellan Air Force Base for repairs it returned to service. Since August 1986, it has been on display at the National Museum of the US Air Force.
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