Q: Now this I'm particularly proud of. You see the gear-stick here? Now if you take the top off, you'll find a little red button. Whatever you do, don't touch it. Bond: And why not? Q: Because if you do, you'll release this section of the roof, and engage and fire the passenger ejector seat. Whoosh! Bond: Ejector seat? You're joking! Q: I never joke about my work, 007.
Space fighters, normal fighters, giant mecha, submarines, time travel cars, secret agent super cars, helicopters, piano recital vans... just about everything has an ejection seat installed. Expect its success rate to be determined by the plot.
It should be pointed out that shooting an airman after he or she's ejected is a war crime, though this is a relatively recent idea and wasn't in force until 1977.note This seems counterintuitive, especially since you could still shoot at paratroopers, or a tank crew abandoning their vehicle. The long and short of it was that the airmen are now considered hors de combat. Plus, if you shot at the enemy's downed airmen, they may start shooting at yours..
Smaller cousin of the Escape Pod.
A Sub-Trope of Abandon Ship; rather than just getting the heck out of (the) Dodge, the seat is helping you out (the door).
[Pilot taps the red star on his helmet] Red button!
Tourist: OK! [hits the red button and fires the ejector seat]
Anime & Manga
Code Geass has ejector seats as a major feature of the Knightmare Frames. In fact, according to the backstory, this trope is the very reason Knightmares exist to begin withnote Britannia looked into putting Ejector Seats in traditional war machines like tanks, but then they added legs so they could escape the battlefield and it kind of snowballed from there. The fact that the Lancelot doesn't have one is made out to be a big deal. Other Knightmare Frames, often of a prototypical/limited production run does not have ejection seats either, such as the Gawain, which is more of a test-bed platform for new technologies, and likewise its derivative unit, Shinkiro. Interestingly, Lancelot Frontier, which is made from Lancelot's old spare parts, does have an ejection seat.
Failsafe Failure is mostly averted, but there are a couple of moments. In one episode, we see a character (Kewell) die when the Guren Mk-II's radiant wave fries his machine's internal computers. In another, Lelouch is badly injured because the seat activates when he doesn't have a clear vector of escape, making it bounce off the ground and nearby objects like a rubber ball; it's frankly quite amazing that he didn't get whiplash. Given a good vector of ejection however, KMF pilot blocks would deploy parachutes to lower its speed and safely set it on the ground.
Mobile Suit Gundam had the Core Fighter, a small aerospace fighter that makes up the cockpit of the Federation's Super Prototypes. The concept returns in a few series, but in some cases (particularly the Victory Gundam and Impulse Gundam) it seems to have been implemented mainly to allow for transformation and replacement of damaged parts rather than as an escape vehicle. The 08th Ms Team depicts a more traditional ejection seat.
The original Gundam's Core Fighter subverts this, since its main purpose is to preserve the Gundam's learning computer and its compiled combat data moreso than it is to protect the pilot.
Gundam Seed meanwhile gives Zaft pilots fightpacks to save themselves with in the event of their suit being disabled (or set to self destruct), but they have to open the cockpit and jump out manually so it's not nearly effective. Earth Federations pilots on the other hand get nothing.
While most Variable Fighters in the Macross universe have standard ejection seats, the VF-25 Messiah from Macross Frontier is unique in that it doesn't have a seat, per se, but the pilots wear exoskeletons/mini-mecha (called EX-Gear) that dock with the cockpit. The pilot can then eject and fly away, even in outer space, using their own self-propelled EX-Gear, which has its own wings, thrusters, and limbs.
Actually, the VF-0 and the VF-1 are the only UN Spacey Variable Fighters with a traditional ejector seat, everything from the VF-4A and up to the VF-22 series has the ejection system encompassing the entire cockpit area, creating an Escape Pod that the pilot can remain in until rescue.
Shin is forced to eject at least once in Area 88. One OVA character takes a sadistic glee in shooting down other pilots after they eject.
Italy and Poland both of them used it in different moments. Sadly, they got stuck in a tree immediately after.
Given its appearance in no fewer than two other media, it is a pretty safe assumption that every iteration of the Batmobile has an ejector seat. The same goes for the Batplane/Batwing. One of the Batman vs Predator titles features a borrowed single-pilot police attack helicopter with an ejection seat, which is odd, because there are very few helicopters with ejection seats. There was only one single-pilot attack helicopter produced ever.
In Green Lantern, an airplane went down and Hal Jordan thought that maybe the pilot had forgotten where the lever was. He himself had managed to persuade Kyle Rayner to take a flight — without his ring — and after Kyle had double-checked everything, he had asked how to trigger the ejection seat, and Hal hadn't remembered.
In one Archie comic book, Jughead as Captain Hero faces a courteous villain who left his own car via ejection seat, while the car is in motion.
At the beginning of The Incredibles, Mr Incredible uses the ejector seat to get Buddy out of his car.
Yellow Submarine. Ringo is steering the sub as they pass through the Sea of Monsters. Old Fred tells him "Whatever you do, don't touch that button." Of course Ringo does so, and is ejected out of the submarine.
Old Fred: *as Ringo goes flying* "That's the panic button."
Films — Live-Action
During the test of the Jet Car, Buckaroo Banzai gets someone Locked Out of the Loop over his radio going "Eject, Buckaroo! Eject!" but Buckaroo refuses and goes on to go through the mountain and into the Eighth Dimension.
Iron Mansaves a pilot who was pursuing him after the pilot is forced to eject. After damage to the fighter jet, the ejection seat is damaged, and the chute won't deploy. Tony uses the armor's strength to pull the lever hard enough to unjam it.
In Stealth, the Love Interest pilot is forced to eject in enemy territory. There's a long scene where she tries to out-fall the debris from her recently destroyed aircraft. When she finally 'does' deploy her chute, the debris slices through it, lights it on fire, and burns it away just a few meters from the trees. She survives with just a few scratches though.
The one in the Aston Martin DB 5 in Goldfinger (described in the page quote) is the front passenger seat, and Bond uses it to remove one of Goldfinger's Mooks from the car.
In Tomorrow Never Dies, Bond uses an ejector to eject an unwanted co-pilot from his stolen fighter jet, downing another plane in the process.
During one scene in GoldenEye, Bond ejects himself and Natalya from a stolen prototype combat helicopter that was rigged to shoot itself with its own missiles. Of course, the ejection mechanism shot out the blades from the top rotor first, for fairly obvious reasons.
In Skyfall, Bond takes the Aston Martin from Goldfinger, complete with gadgets out of a garage so that he and M can escape London. The seat isn't actually used, but Bond does flip up the secret panel on the gear-stick, revealing the red button, as if threatening to eject M. This is Played for Laughs.
One of these is discussed in A New Hope during the assault on the Death Star (unfortunately for the pilot, he gets blown up before he has time to eject). The starfighter is designed so that the cockpit and couch would separate from the fuselage and engines, thus leaving the pilot drifting in what was effectively a survival capsule. The suit is air tight and has a small force field that will keep you breathing for about three or four hours. Now being next to a giant moon-sized space station that explodes isn't exactly survivable so it was still a waste of time.
Top Gun shows that ejecting doesn't always help, as Goose smacks into the canopy and breaks his neck. This was a real risk at one time; now the ejection seat in many fighters is designed with a mechanism to shatter the glass before the pilot could hit it in the case that the canopy is not out of the way already. Additionally, the F-14's canopy had a tendency to get sucked into a low-pressure zone directly above the cockpit during ejection.
Pee-wee's Big Adventure - Pee-Wee's bike has an ejector seat, as Francis discovers. It delivers nothing but poetic justice.
The Batmobile in The Dark Knight has an unconventional ejector seat which converts into a kickass Bike from hell. Also, in The Dark Knight Rises, Batman manages to eject from his Batpod and control it remotely allowing him to fly it to a safe distance and fake his own death.
Death Race has an ejector seat in the hero's car. The eject was never for the Hero, just the navigator. Assuming it's the same for all the vehicles, it makes sense seeing as how viewers would like to think the ladies don't die. On at least one case, an ejector seat is improvised into a mortar to take out a pursuing car.
Speed Racer has an ejection mechanism that fills the cockpit with foam and then ejects the foam ball with the pilot inside. This allows them to survive such events as crashing into pillars at 300 kph or falling off a track at skyscraper height. They did this to justify the heroes sideswiping cars off cliffs in a kid-friendly movie. This didn't save Rex Racer when his "Quick Save" system failed to deploy in a wreck. One of many reasons that his death was considered highly suspicious.
2 Fast 2 Furious features a pair of improvised ejection seats in two cars powered by partially spent N2O cylinders usually used for Nitro Boost. Played with when Brian delays hitting the button because he needs the mook in the seat for a little longer, and again when he presses the button and it doesn't work, opening the way for Roman's Big Damn Heroes moment. By the way this isn't how N20 works.
Parodied in Hot Shots!, where a character successfully ejects... right into another plane. His head is stuck in another pilot's cockpit for a good long while, his arms and legs flailing around uselessly as he begs said pilot "Don't land!"
In Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, when Baron Bomburst commands Grandpa to make the eponymous car fly, Grandpa presses a button at random that sends the Baroness shooting skyward out of her seat (she is saved by her Parachute Petticoat).
The Star Wars Expanded Universe uses this a lot more than the films, so that people can and do survive that way. Sometimes, however, the ejector seat malfunctions, sometimes the canopy doesn't open. Both the successful and the tragic versions happen in the X-Wing Series, both books and comics. With the mag-con field active over their flight suits, pilots can survive for something like ten minutes before freezing, since Space Is Cold. There was actually a plot the Darklighter comic which hinged◊ on ejecting◊ in better suits while their modified TIEs got shot down. Averted with the TIE Fighters, which are well known among the Star Wars community for NOT having ejector seats, among other things, which is used as an example of how The Empire doesn't give a fig about its, well, anything. They have reserves. Starfighters of Adumar relates a humorous tale in which a pilot made a crash-landing on a moon in his Y-Wing. He lived, but his ejector seat malfunctioned, launching him with enough force to escape the low gravity. They collected him, but he got saddled with the name "Ejector Darpin".
Averted in The Jennifer Morgue by Charles Stross, which goes into some detail as to why an ejection seat in a car is an insanely bad idea; when Bob Howard presses the eject button on his Cool Car, the entire car ejects, which is only slightly less so. It's made clear that only time you should press the button is if not pressing it is definitely going to kill you. The explanation also deflates the idea of the "easy eject"; Bob describes how, due to the G-forces involved, the pilot is likely looking at weeks in traction at best.
As in the games on which they're based, the Wing Commander novels occasionally feature ejection seats. In End Run, it's noted that there's a mechanism that's supposed to prevent an ejection while on the carrier, but that has a reputation for not always functioning. Later in the novel it fails for one pilot, smashing him against the landing bay overheadnote for those not familiar with naval terminology, the ceiling.
When Wendy Watson flies to rescue The Middle Man, IDA triggers the Middlejet's seat remotely, much to Wendy's horror.
Fighters in Babylon 5 are often equipped with ejector seats (the human Starfuries actually eject the entire cockpit as an Escape Pod), though rescue is a bit of a crapshoot in space, especially if whatever just destroyed your fighter is still shooting in your direction.
Knight Rider: KITT's ejection seats never left the car, they simply catapulted the occupant a couple stories in the air. Which makes less sense.
Get Smart: Maxwell Smart's car occasionally features an ejector seat. You can imagine how well that works.
The MythBusters proved you could, with some difficulty, put a crude ejector seat in a car and trick somebody into sitting on it.
In the Stargate Verse, the F-302, being space-worthy fighters, can eject the whole two-place cockpit, as to make sure the pilots can survive in space. Most of other races' mook mobiles, like the Stargate SG-1 Goa'uld's Death Gliders or the Wraith Darts, have no such equipment.
An episode of Good Eats had Alton ejecting "James Bond" from his bar with an ejection stool, complete with a Shout-Out to the dialog at the top of the page.
Documentary series Pawn Stars had someone try to sell this to the pawn shop. It was appraised as genuine. And they learned it was still functioning and in all the years it had been owned and used as a chair in someone's living room, no one decided to randomly try the eject button.
Played straight, averted, and subverted in several episodes of JAG. Appropriate, as several of the characters on the show are fighter pilots. Even part of the story behind Harm's Disappeared Dad.
Harm: "Punching out is the last thing a pilot ever wants to do. People think you get in trouble, pull the magic handle, and float safely to the ground? Every time you punch out you end up an inch shorter."
"Scenes from a Hat" category on Whose Line Is It Anyway?: Things that should come with ejector seats. Wayne Brady hits on the bright idea of pushing down on the buzzer next to Drew. You can pretty much guess how Drew takes that.
Some tau Battlesuits in Warhammer 40k has an option for this.
The eject button is marked as "Bouncy Bubble Beverage Dispenser" or something along those lines.
The presence of an ejector seat was not considered when armour plating was added. (See also, head trauma.)
The seatbelt, if you used it at all, was poorly designed and disconnects as soon as the seat ejects.
And many, many more.
BattleTech has these for its Humongous Mecha, usually with an automatic trigger in case of an ammo explosion that would otherwise destroy the 'Mech and the pilot with it. In some advanced designs, the entire head assembly comes free, but a plain old ejection after popping the canopy is still the default. It may be worth noting that the setting does canonically feature enemies ruthless enough to specifically gun for MechWarriors forced to do this.
An option for a Car Wars vehicle, too. It boasted three accessory packages: a hang glider to fly away, a parachute to waft down, or (the 'Mother-in-law special') absolutely nothing, for the Wile E Coyote impersonation scene. No restrictions on vehicle (although helicopters did lose their rotors after ignition request). Fellow Steve Jackson Games product GURPS Vehicles also, naturally, had these.
In Critical Mass, if you don't eject before your ship is destroyed, you have Final Death. This is true of most flight-simulation games, unless there is no ejection option.
In Escape Velocity, playing on "Strict Play" mode makes buying an escape pod a wise move. There's an auto-eject option which automatically launches it if your ship is breaking up.
Featured prominently in the Wing Commander series. Ejecting means that you just failed every remaining objective (because your wingman Can't Go On Without You), but it can occasionally be a wise move, especially if you don't like Save Scumming. Ejection in many missions, however, was still a loss. And one Kilrathi ace in particular was known for shooting up ejected pilots. In the cartoon Wing Commander Academy, the ejection was via an enclosed pod, not just one's seat.
The Mech Commander series had ejection as part of the gameplay. Your Mechwarriors would typically successfully eject (with some injury, which was another gameplay mechanic) should their 'Mechs be disabled by anything but destruction of the head. Understandably (as the head contains the cockpit), destruction of the cockpit results in the death of the Mechwarrior. In either case, death of your Mechwarrior would result in him being removed from your roster permanently; a fairly big issue, as Mechwarriors get better with experience and recruited Mechwarriors cost credits and are typically worse than the ones you currently have.
The MechWarrior series has escape pods built into the cockpits of their BattleMechs that gave pilots a chance to survive a losing fight. In some games, they are seemingly powerful enough to get back to orbit under their own power, which is a good bit beyond the normal capabilities of ejection seats in the board game. Traditionally, the "Eject" button is basically a "Suicide" button for when a player gets stuck or crippled in the middle of nowhere, but Mechwarrior Living Legends allows players to bail out (in a full suit of Battlarmor) and continue fighting on foot, though with much weaker weapons (just an anti-infantry gatling gun) than dedicated Battlearmor players.
In Operation Flashpoint pilots routinely bail out from their badly damaged helicopters. (It's not ejection in the usual sense of the word, they simply jump out and pull their chutes, but it's still absurd, since they usually go through the still-turning rotors and yet remain unharmed.
Ejection seats play a major role in Faking the Dead at one point in Ace Combat 5. A jammed ejection seat kills Chopper earlier. In one of the missions it's also mentioned that the enemy aces you shot down all punched out. All of them. Somehow. You do fight them again later, and shoot them down again.
Enemy aces in Ace Combat Zero sometimes manage to eject and survive the battle, according to the Assault Records.
During the tutorial mission in Ace Combat: Assault Horizon, a QTE requires you to punch certain buttons to after your craft is hit. Failure to do so will end in a Game Over.
Ejection seats play a role in Super Robot Wars games from time to time, usually to explain how someone survived getting a mech shot down.
Veteran pilots in the USA faction of Command & Conquer: Generals automatically bail out when shot down. They can then be assigned permanently to ground vehicles (or parked jets, or helicopters that have landed to repair), upgrading them to the Veteran status earned by the aircraft.
SPY Fox in Dry Cereal uses this trope for the last puzzle. Comically, it's activated by a toaster.
A rather obscure Sega Mega Drive game called MiG-29 Fighter Pilot has an Eject Function. Ejecting before your plane crashes lets you continue the mission as is, but not ejecting will boot you back to the first mission. Amusingly you cannot simply eject without any need or you will be disciplined. This is because you can actually eject at any time, even while your plane is ready for take off, that is to say, seconds after starting a mission.
In Grand Theft Auto V, the P-996 Lazer fighter jet features one, letting you escape easily if you get shot up. However, if you manage to somehow wreck it, but still get to the ground mostly in one piece, the seat likes to fire you backwards into the ground. This hurts. In addition to that, one of the cars Franklin has to steal in one of the missions is equipped with an ejectable passenger seat. The actress who Franklin accidentally kidnapped found this out the hard way when Franklin pressed the button, not knowing what it would do.
While repairing the ''Savage Chicken'' Sam and Helix of Freefall had some fun with the ejection seat. Fortunately the ship's computer was sensible enough to disable it after the second time and they put the ceiling panels back on with duct tape.
Sam: "Explosive bolt error? Why should I care about that?!"''
Helix: (Queries) "Two words, roof pizza."''
In Jix the amnesia that caused Jix to emerge from Remula's consciousness was the result of an attempted ejection while the ceiling of her ship was still closed.
During the 1980s, the Moral Guardians were all concerned about damaging fragile child minds, so Never Say "Die" was in full effect. This was particularly noticeable on G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero. Any aerial dogfight between the Joes and Cobra ended up with the loser ejecting and parachuting to safety before their plane was destroyed.
In the episode "Joker's Millions", The Joker is so poor that he could afford only one ejection seat. Boy, was Harley mad!
Batman in Batman: The Brave and the Bold has an ejector seat in the Batplane. He hovered a finger over the button because Plastic Man was getting on his nerves.
The first season finale of Megas XLR features one of these, with the button "Bet You Can't Guess What This Button Does". Next season, there was an "Eject Skippy" button, conveniently anticipating where the annoying kid would be sitting.
An episode of The Smokey Bear Show had one character installing an ejector seat in another character's newly acquired sports car.
In the "Rhode Island Road Race" episode of Wacky Races, Penelope Pitstop uses her ejector seat to expel Dick Dastardly.
Taz-Mania: One gets installed in the family mini-van (without the Devil's knowledge) in "Yet Another Road to Tazmania". Taz is accidentally ejected from the car while Hugh is trying to turn on the air conditioning.
Gerry Anderson's New Captain Scarlet splits the difference and equips the Angel Interceptors with an Escape Pod that can return to Skybase under its own power, handily averting some Fridge Logic about just how they're supposed to get back onboard (its canon cruising altitude is sixty thousand feet, so no helicopters) but if that gets shot down they have this trope to fall back on.
A variation was used at the end of the first act of the Mr. Bogus episode "Bogunda, Bogetta & Bogus", where Bogus activates a switch on the jeep, which causes the jeep to eject Ratty into the air when Ratty starts to sit down in said jeep.
When Wile E. Coyote builds a Weaponized Car to catch the Road Runner in "Sugar and Spies", it includes an ejection seat. You can probably guess how useful this proves to him.
In real life, 20% of aircraft ejections result in the pilot sustaining career-ending injuries, such as death. Also, 100% of aircraft ejections result in the pilot losing several inches of height, due to the sudden compression of being flung out of your plane at anywhere from 12 to 22 Gs (depending on what ejection seat your plane was equipped with). Most air forces impose a career limit on the number of ejections permissible before it's desk job city for you. Indeed pilots don't eject at the first hint of trouble, either. Considerable effort if first put into slowing the aircraft because at supersonic or just plain fast speeds the wind the pilot is slamming into could possibly rip the mask off of a pilot's face and ram the air down his esophagus, inflating his stomach like a balloon, which makes simply impacting the ground sans parachute sound like a better option. Slowing down to a more reasonable speed to eject into is a good idea, if you can do it. A 200 mph wind is about the fastest nature throws at us. 600 mph is unnatural. The conventional wisdom among pilots is to eject only if not ejecting will kill you.
Note that in one extraordinary case, not only the pilot survived the ejection, but so did the aircraft, as it managed to land sans pilot, and sustained so little damage that it was returned to service. (See here for more details). Even more here Definitely a "Truth is stranger than fiction" moment.
There were also downward firing ejection seats which were fitted due to fears of seats not being fast enough to clear the tailplane of some jets. Naturally this made low altitude ejections a bit of a hazard requiring the pilot to roll his aircraft before ejecting. And when these were replaced by improved seats which fired upwards, they forgot to tell the pilots leading to a few cases where the pilot would correctly roll the aircraft and eject straight into the ground.
Before ejection seats were invented, escaping an aircraft by "bailing out" was even more dangerous. If you were lucky, there was a control that would blast off the canopy with explosive charges. If not, you had to open the canopy yourself, either climb out or roll the aircraft over and fall out, and essentially perform an impromptu skydive. Unlike a normal skydive however, the aircraft is likely to be violently spinning and rapidly losing altitude due to loss of engines, control surfaces, entire wings, or all of the above. If the plane was flying low enough or couldn't be controlled at all, many pilots chose to stay in their planes and die instantly in the crash instead of risk bailing out and dying a slower, more horrible death. At least 50% died on the way out (not counting the ones who didn't make it out at all), and only around a quarter made it back home safely, the rest of the survivors either being taken prisoner or horribly wounded. Early-model Messerschmitt Bf 109s and Bell P-39 Airacobras were notoriously difficult to bail out of because the wind would literally hold the side-folding canopy shut, making it almost impossible to escape the plane. Production Airacobras didn't have sliding canopies, they had doors, but that didn't make them easier to bail out, for a different reason. The relative positions of the cockpit door and the stabilizer effectively made sure that if any pilot taller than a midget would forget to take a fetal position after bailing out, his legs will be broken by a stabilizer, this usually being a career ending injury even if the pilot managed to land on his own territory and was saved by the groung troops. More than a few pilots suffered such a misfortune, the most famous of them being a Soviet ace Boris Glinka (29 victories).
The Lockheed P-38 Lightning, likewise, had a nasty habit of killing or permanently injuring anybody attempting to bail out of it. The plane basically had 2 fuselages, with a boomlike horizontal stabilizer stretching the entire width between them. Bailing out of the cockpit (located in the middle between the 2 fuselages) would likely slam you into the boom, whether you curled into a fetal position or not.
The first generation of fighter jets such as the F-80 Shooting Star and F-84 Thunderjet made ejection seats indispensible. Pilots attempting to bail out now had a very significant chance of being unable to get out of the way before the plane would catch up with them. In fact, on faster airplanes, the slipstream, the layer of air traveling around the plane's body, could actually pull the pilot up against the plane once he left the cockpit (the same problem also applies to things like missiles or bombs, requiring a bit of engineering on how to get them to leave the plane once you dropped them).
While ejection seat designs had been experimented with since 1916, the first practical designs were developed by Heinkel in Germany (1940, while working on a jet fighter prototype) and Saab in Sweden (1941, while developing the Saab 21 twin boom pushing propeller fighter). The Germans employed ejection seats on their experimental jet types (first emergency use, January 1942) and were the earliest to install them on production models. The first aircraft built with ejection seats was the Heinkel He219, a nightfighter, which had its engines so close to the fuselage that the propeller tips reached within a foot of the cockpit, just aft of the pilot's seat (first combat ejection, April 1944). Another German type needing bangseats, although it never entered production, The was the Dornier Do229, which had two propellers, one pulling in the front, the other pushing in the rear, just in the right place to mince a pilot (although the ejection sequence had this propeller jettisoned as well).
Spare a thought for the early Soviet VDV, who, lacking cargo aircraft with such bourgeois luxuries as enclosed fuselages, had to deploy like this all the time.◊
Tom Wolfe, in The Right Stuff, descibes a harrowing account Chuck Yeager had with an experimental rocket-powered aircraft, which malfunctioned at a very, very high altitude - he ejected when there was no hope of regaining control, and while airborne was hit by the seat and severely burned on the face and hand by its propellant. He makes it down alive and mobile, but horrifies the young motorist who finds him with his injuries.
The American Gemini spacecraft had extra-strong ejection seats that were designed not only to blast the astronaut clear of the spacecraft, but outside the danger zone of a potential launcher fire, and high enough for a parachute to work. They were never used, and would probably have permanently crippled the user. This design was unusual: most manned spacecraft have used a Launch Escape System consisting of a solid fuel rocket in a tower connected to the crew capsule. If the launcher is about to explode or otherwise fail catastrophically, the crew capsule is detached and the LES activated to put it at a safe distance. The LES is typically jettisoned when the spacecraft nears orbit. This has only ever been used once for real, when the two-man crew of Soyuz T-10-1, waiting for a trip to Salyut 7 in 1983, were ejected clear of their launcher just before a fire destroyed it. (In 1975, another Soyuz mission had its capsule ejected while heading for orbit as the third stage was deviating too much, but by then they had already jettisoned the LES and the crew capsule was sent clear by the explosive bolts detaching it from the launcher.)
In a case of ejection by design, Yuri Gagarin, on the world's first manned space flight, actually ejected from his Vostok capsule and landed separately by parachute. This was covered up for many years, as the FAI rules of the time required a pilot to land with his capsule for the flight to count. Gagarin, dressed in a bright orange spacesuit, landed next to a man and his daughter, having to explain he wasn't an alien, he was a fellow Soviet and needed to find a telephone. The soviets kept it a secret that they hadn't figured out how to make the Vostok capsules land survivably and pretended that the cosmonauts usually, with a few exceptions, landed with their spacecraft, when in reality the only way to survive was to eject. The next generation of Soviet spacecraft, the Voskhods, had an improved combination of parachutes and braking rockets that made a soft landing possible. This made the ejection seat unnecessary and a two- or three-man crew could be fitted in the capsule.
The KA-50 Alligator/Black Shark (NATO Reporting Name: Hokum) is probably the first combat helicopter to be fitted with ejection seats. Obviously, with two rotors on top of it, it is very easy to get blended into chunky meat sauce when ejecting, so the design also detonates charges built into the helicopter rotors axles just before the ejection seat activates.
On shooting an airman after he or she's ejected or otherwise left a stricken aircraft being a war crime. This was generally respected in World War II by all sides, even (most of the time) on the Eastern Front. But Polish pilots in the Royal Air Force had to be frequently brought to book for seeking to kill German aircrew who had bailed out - they generally loathed the Germans so much that they considered the fight was not over till the pilot was dead. Some British pilots justified shooting at a bailed-out Luftwaffe pilot with the simple cold calculation that the Germans could quickly replace an aircraft - it took time, money and experience to make a good pilot, and to make sure he was dead would really harm the German war effort, especially if he bailed out where his own side could recover him. This attitude was rare, however, and besides, it is difficult and expends too much ammo to make sure of getting a man hanging under a parachute.
Although during the Battle of Britain, some British pilots thought nothing of shooting down seaplanes tasked with recovering German pilots who came down in the Channel. Derek Robinson fictionalises these varying attitudes in his black comedy of the Battle of Britain, A Piece of Cake.
According to some, however, German pilots were justifiable targets over large areas of water such as the English Channel, because it's hard to grasp just how cold the North Atlantic is during the winter and/or at night, and in fact considerable research was in progress on both sides to improve flight suit insulation to prevent bailed pilots from simply freezing to death.