Observer activated ejection seat before MiG-23 pilot who crashed during US air show

A rear-seat observer, whose identity has not been released, found the fighter’s problem unresolvable as pilot Dan Filer tried to recover engine power, a preliminary NTSB report said.

The first details about the crash of a private MiG-23 fighter that crashed during an air show in Michigan on Aug. 13 have begun to emerge in a preliminary report by the NTSB, the US Transportation Safety Board.

The supersonic jet of Soviet origin was piloted by Dan Filer, its owner and a former US Navy pilot. The MiG-23UB, however, is a two-seat variant and the second seat was occupied by an undisclosed person.

It was precisely the second occupant that precipitated the activation of the ejection seats, according to the NTSB. The person says he warned the pilot that the loss of engine power was an irreversible situation and that they should eject, but Dan Filer was still trying to solve the problem when he was ejected from the plane.

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For safety reasons, the MiG-23 automatically deploys the second ejection seat when one of them is manually deployed.


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According to the preliminary report, Dan Filer made a pass on the runway and then noticed that the afterburner was not working and that the airspeed was dropping. “He brought the swing wings into the fully forward position (16° sweep) to increase lift and began troubleshooting the problem,” says the excerpt.

“He was actively troubleshooting when the rear seat observer stated that they needed to eject. The pilot reported that he was not ready to eject and was still troubleshooting the problem and maneuvering the airplane toward runway 27 at YIP [Willow Run Airport] when his ejection seat fired, and he was out of the airplane. He stated that if either occupant pulls the ejection handle, both seats eject,” the report added.

MiG=23UB (Rob Schleiffert)

Dan Filer owns several MiG-23 fighters that he restores in a hangar in Texas. He had participated in the EAA air show in Oshkosh, days before he appeared in the “Thunder Over Michigan” event in Ypsilanti.

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The fighter’s two occupants were largely unharmed while the MiG-23 crashed into a residential area without causing injuries to people on the ground.

The MiG-23 is a single-engine fighter developed by the Soviet Union in the 1960s and which entered service in 1970 as a replacement for the MiG-21. The aircraft is still used by some air forces around the world, but was retired in Russia in 1998.


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