A MISSING US Air Force F-35 jet continued to fly in a "zombie state" after its pilot ejected in a mysterious "mishap".
As the search continued for £65million warplane, history reveals other military jets have flown pilotless for long distances and even landed in one piece.
The "ghost" F-35 went missing over South Carolina on Sunday afternoon and the US military is desperately scrambling it.
The pilot safely ejected following the unknown error but the plane – reportedly left in a "zombie" state on autopilot – continued to fly on.
The strange incident mirrors the infamous cases of both the US "Cornfield Bomber" in 1970 and the Soviet "Ghost MiG" that crash landed in Belgium in 1989.
Both jets experienced faults that caused their pilot to eject, but bizarrely both managed to regain altitude and fly on for miles unmanned.
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In the "Cornfield Bomber" case in 1970, a US F-106 miraculously recovered from a violent spinning nosedive and later landed itself safely with very little damage.
And in 1989, a Soviet MiG-23 caused pandemonium when it flew pilotless over 600miles, crossing the Iron Curtain and into Nato air space before crashing into a home in Belgium.
However, the state of the missing F-35B was unknown as the search area was narrowed to two lakes north of Charleston.
Officials have called on the public to help find the missing Lightning II fighter jet, which was reportedly left in stealth mode on autopilot prior the ejection.
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In this kind of "zombie" state, F-35s can fly for prolonged periods depending on their fuel state.
Emergency efforts to locate the jet have been further hampered by the sensors, systems and airframe used on F-35Bs that enable it to be undetected by enemies.
Meanwhile, the warplane's transponder – which is usually used to locate the aircraft – is not working "for some reason that we haven't determined", a spokesperson at Joint Base Charleston told The Washington Post.
F-35s are some of the world's most expensive and advanced fighter jets – known for their stealth, speed and aerodynamic body.
The US military is currently investigating what led to the "mishap".
The 'Cornfield Bomber'
On February 2, 1970, Lieutenant Gary Foust and his wingman took off for a training exercise near Boston in a F-106 Delta Dart.
As he competed with his opponent in the training game, they came close to crashing and as Foust attempted to avoid the collision, the plane entered a high-speed roll.
Stuck in the spin and plummeting to the ground, the pilot ejected at 8,000ft.
"After I ejected, the airplane immediately went completely nosedown and recovered from the spin," he later told the National Museum of the US Air Force.
In a scene that shocked the US Air Force, the aircraft carried on flying for miles and miraculously made a gentle landing on its belly in a snowy Montana field.
Foust explained that there was only "minor damage" and the plane was quickly repaired and made operational.
The lieutenant even went onto fly the same F-106 again during an exercise nine years later.
The ghost Soviet MiG
A Soviet 1970s-era MiG-23 took off from Bagicz Air Base near Kołobrzeg, Poland on July 4, 1989.
The fearsome aircraft was on a routine training flight when the Colonel Nikolai Skuridin experienced a sudden engine issue and lost power.
The plane began to nosedive and the pilot ejected after being convinced the MiG-23 would crash.
In fact, the colonel never saw the plane go down as instead it continued to fly and even gained altitude before cruising on autopilot.
It flew in a straight line westwards, leaving Soviet Bloc Poland and crossing the Iron Curtain into Nato airspace above West Germany.
Two US F-15 jets scrambled to intercept, and reported that the ghostly plane was unmanned and missing its canopy.
It crossed Dutch air space and into Belgium, while the pair of F-15s were instructed to shoot it down when it reached the North Sea to avoid any casualties or damage.
However, after flying over 600 miles the pilotless MiG ran out of fuel before it reached the coast.
It fell from the sky and slammed down into a house near Kortrijk, near the French border.
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Pictures showed the jet remarkably intact after the crash landing, which killed 18-year-old student Wim Delaere as he slept.
The rogue jet's incursion had caused alarm in Nato, but Soviet chiefs refused to explain what had happened.
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