The weird story of a U.S. jet that recovered from flat spin and made a gentle landing. Unpiloted

An unpiloted aircraft recovers on its own from an uncontrollable flat spin and makes a gentle landing in a cornfield.

In the drones era, this could be an almost normal headline for the news of a UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) accident somewhere in the U.S., unless the episode took place about 44 years ago and the aircraft was unmanned because its pilot was forced to eject after the F-106 he was flying had entered an unrecoverable flat spint.

Maj. (Ret.) Gary Foust, was that pilot.

During a training mission from Malmstrom Air Force Base, on Feb. 2, 1970, his F-106 entered an uncontrollable flat spin forcing  him to eject. Unexpectedly, the aircraft recovered on its own and made a gentle belly landing and skidding for a few hundred yards on a field near Big Sandy, Montana, covered by some inches of snow.

The aircraft, that returned to active service after the mishap, can be found at the U.S. Air Force National Museum (that has made the following video with interview to Gary Foust available).

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


  1. In Israel also :-)

    Kfir C-2 (Mirage knock-off) had wheel damage during night landing training.
    Its very dangerous to belly land a delta wing aircraft, so the plane was pointed toward the sea and the pilot ejected. Since it was night, there was no visual confirmation of it’s crash into the sea. A couple of days later some people called the Air Force to let them know that he found the airplane in his field with minimal damage.

    Story in Hebrew:

    BTW, the Argentine Mirage might have been an old Israeli one that was sold after it ended active service.

  2. The photo of the F106 is not so great, but it looks as if the canopy is still in place. If the pilot had ejected the canopy would be gone.

  3. during ACM the F-106 entered a high alpha stall where the wingtips stalled and the center of lift moved forward causing the nose to rise even more; the dash one says this is a nonrecoverable condition and to eject. thankfully, this aircraft had the new ejection seat systems which allowed the pilot a chance to survive the ejection sequence. Proper procedure was followed-autopilot on, 5 deg nose down, stopcock throttle at idle power pull straps and leave the aircraft. It was determined by the AIB that the force of the ejection and canopy seperation with attendant changes in aerodynamic loads caused the aircraft to depart the high alpha condition. The autopilot flew the aircraft into the soft winter wheat field where it came to rest with the engine still running at idle which the recover crew shut down some hours later.

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