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    2023 Michigan Air Show Incident: The Downfall of a MiG-23UB Due to Ejection and Engine Failures

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    On the afternoon of August 13, 2023, during the Thunder Over Michigan air show, a rare and unsettling incident took place involving a privately owned Soviet-era fighter jet.

    A two-seat MiG-23UB, piloted by former U.S. Navy aviator Dan Filer, experienced engine trouble shortly after an aerobatic display at Willow Run Airport.

    Witnesses at the air show captured heart-stopping footage showing the aircraft in a low-altitude left bank maneuver when, suddenly, both the pilot and the observer ejected into the air, parachuting into Belleville Lake.

    The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) launched an exhaustive investigation into the crash, examining the complex circumstances leading up to the decision to eject.

    According to the preliminary report, as the jet encountered engine problems, Filer attempted to troubleshoot the issue in real time while attempting to maneuver the aircraft back to the airstrip. However, the backseat observer, feeling the urgency of the situation, believed they lacked the altitude required to safely return to the airport and initiated the ejection process.

    “The rear seat observer stated that the airplane made a pass along the runway and the plan was to go to the left for another pass followed by a landing,” the NTSB report states.

    MiG-27” by Rob Schleiffert is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

    “He stated that the engine was not accelerating…They determined that they had some type of engine problem and needed to get back on the ground.”

    Due to the inherent design of the ejection system in the MiG-23, the activation of one ejection seat automatically triggers the other, regardless of which occupant initiates it.

    Filer, who was focusing on solving the engine trouble and not yet prepared to abandon the aircraft, found himself catapulted out of the cockpit alongside his observer.

    The report also confirmed that the aircraft impacted the ground about one mile south of the runway end, with the fuselage section that contained the tail surfaces and engine coming to rest adjacent to an apartment building and the remainder of the airplane fragmented and distributed along a 600 ft-long wreckage path.

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