For many years, it was rumored that he survived the fall because a bomb exploded directly underneath him and its shock wave slowed his plunge. However, in 2006 MythBusters tested out the theory and declared it BUSTED, and that's good enough for us. It is, after all, one of the few times when busting the myth makes it more amazing: All that saved Magee was a split-second pause in his descent caused by crashing through a pane of glass like a goddamned Hollywood stuntman.
Cliff Judkins Hits the Water from 15,000 Feet
In 1963, Cliff Judkins was flying an F-8 fighter when a midair refueling accident turned his plane into a supersonic flaming torch. He had seconds to get out before he'd be engulfed in an orange ball of burning jet fuel.
So, Judkins reached for the controls to eject, only to find that both of the releases for the ejection seat were broken. He was going to have to jump out of the aircraft on his own. But there was a problem. See, here is why ejection seats eject -- there's a big-ass tail fin back there that you have to clear:
"I said all pilots should wear a cup. They said, 'No, when would you ever need that?'"
Well, unless you want it to cut you in half like a giant supersonic samurai sword. Judkins looked over his shoulder to see through the giant flames that were quickly engulfing his plane, knowing he'd have to jump out with enough force to clear the 20-foot-tall tail. He threw himself from the plane and sensed that his legs were in fact still attached to his body, allowing a sigh of relief hardly heard as the wind whipped at his face at 15,000 feet.
Thinking he should slow his fall, he pulled at his parachute, only to find, as you can guess, that it didn't deploy correctly. After a few minutes of terrifying struggle to get it to open, all while falling to his almost certain death, he smacked hard into the ocean.
We can only hope he took the opportunity to break the world belly-flop record.