I, like many people, am terrified of heights. That's why, while reading about the ordeal that Cliff Judkins went through as a U.S. Air Force pilot on a routine trans-pacific flight makes me so wildly uncomfortable.
Judkins was flying his F-8 Crusader, 20,000 feet above the Pacific Ocean. He had just hooked his plane up to C-130 Tanker in order to do a mid-air refuel.
During the initial stages of refueling, everything remained normal and all of his gauges told him that this would be a quick and painless procedure. Judkins noticed that his throttle lever was sticking slightly, which was slightly unusual, and as he tried to adjust for the issue there was a bang followed by a mid-air explosion. This started a chain reaction of events that would seem far-fetched in a book or on television.
Judkins had "flamed out" meaning his plane suffered a catastrophic malfunction followed by a mid-air fire/explosion. His training immediately kicked in and he started going through the procedures for such a situation. His radio was out so he couldn't inform anyone of what was going on, and that was a serious problem, because when he attempted to release the canopy hatch to eject, nothing happened.