Although it sounds incredible that people have survived falls from aircraft as high as 20 000 feet, the extreme height makes little difference as anything above 10 or 12 stories and you’ve reached terminal velocity. So a fall from 20,000 is no different from a 500-foot fall.
After the Vietnam war, Vietnamese farmers recycled thousands of external fuel tanks from U.S. aircraft to create river boats and canoes.
In 1990 a wrongly installed windscreen on BA Flight 5390 fell out, causing the plane’s cockpit to decompress and its captain to be pulled halfway out of the aircraft at an altitude of over 17,000 feet. The crew held onto the captain’s body fearing it would get sucked into the engine. The captain survived.
In 1975, $10 million worth of Huey helicopters had to be pushed off the flight deck of the USS Midway and into the sea to make way for the emergency landing of an aircraft with Vietnamese evacuees on board.