In Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope, Porkins is killed during the attack on the first Death Star. Just before his X-Wing is destroyed, the following exchange takes place:

PORKINS: "I've got a problem here."
BIGGS: "Eject."
PORKINS: "I can hold it."
BIGGS: "Pull up!"
PORKINS: "No, I'm all - Aargh!"

I don't understand how ejecting would be preferable to being killed outright.

  • They are in the near-vacuum of space

  • They are not wearing spacesuits that would support life outside their fighters

  • They are skimming the surface of a giant battle station that they are trying to blow up.

As such, the only way a pilot could survive ejection, even in the extremely short-term, would be if there was a breathable, relatively warm atmosphere outside the hull of the Death Star. However, even if this were the case, the ejected pilot would only survive until the mission was completed, because he'd still be standing on the Death Star when it exploded. If the mission failed, the rebel attack fleet would presumably be routed or entirely destroyed, and the ejected pilot would be left to wait around until he was spotted by the Imperial forces and, I assume, killed on the spot.

Wookieepedia's stub on ejector seats does little to dispel these apparent problems:

[T]he pilot was left vulnerable to the vacuum of space with little protection other than a flight suit, whereas in an escape pod, ample supplies of food, water, and air were all available. It was important to have rescue and recovery vehicles nearby to retrieve ejected pilots, who could often become lost in the vastness of space.
- Source

A rescue seems totally out of the question - before the photon torpedoes enter the exhaust port, all resources have to be directed at getting a torpedo into the port, not rescuing stranded pilots. Once the torpedo enters the exhaust port, there simply isn't time for a rescue. Luke fires the torpedo, sees it go in, and immediately pulls up and tries to put as much distance as possible between himself and the Death Star before it blows up, and even then, he barely makes it out alive.

This being the case, why would anyone suggest ejecting?

  • You're mistaking the Death Star for a moon. If Porkins ejects, it'll be into space. He can then make a run for Yavin, hopefully gaining enough distance to be outside the blast radius of the Death Star. – Valorum Nov 28 '15 at 19:34
  • @Richard - That illustration seems to confirm the idea that the pilot is basically choosing to die of asphyxiation and/or exposure in space rather than incineration in his fighter. – Wad Cheber stands with Monica Nov 28 '15 at 19:48
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    Maybe Biggs is giving the order out of reflex/habit? Alternatively, maybe he's thinking 98% chance of death in what appears to be a shielded ejector seat beats 100% chance if he stays on target? – VapedCrusader Nov 28 '15 at 19:52
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    related, possible dupe: How do ejection systems operate for Rebel pilots? – phantom42 Nov 28 '15 at 20:12
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    Biggs hated Porkins, always sweeping nachos crumbs from his control panel. – Zikato Nov 30 '15 at 12:15

Canonically, we don't currently know, however, in the Legends continuity, "Magnetic Fields" were used to create temporary atmospheres.

Emphasis mine:

Magnetic fields were used throughout the galaxy to contain the atmosphere within starship hangars, as well as to protect pilots who were forced to abandon their vehicles while in realspace and did not have the benefit of environmental or vac-rated life-support enviro-suits.

If he can survive the destruction of his X-Wing, there's a chance he'll be rescued. A small chance is better than no chance.

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  • I hear eJECT, but +1 for thinking outside the box, and for having any idea what Porkins' first name was – VapedCrusader Nov 28 '15 at 19:57
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    PORKINS I’ve got a problem here… my converter is running wild… BIGGS Eject, eject, Blue Six, do you read? PORKINS I’m all right. I can hold it. Give me a little room, Biggs. - Revised fourth draft of the script. – Wad Cheber stands with Monica Nov 28 '15 at 20:02
  • @WadCheber Edited. – Rogue Jedi Nov 28 '15 at 20:02
  • So he was calling Blue Six to rescue him? – SQB Nov 28 '15 at 20:17
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    Late bit of info to this thread, but FWIW, I think part of the reason “Blue Squadron” changed to “Red Squadron” was the special effect capabilities at the time where blue screen filtering factored into the way effects were composted. To see what I mean, look at scenes where R2-D2 is in space in the X-Wing after Luke leaves Hoth. In the original release, the blue parts of R2-D2’s design came through as black. But in the special editions they fixed that so they are blue again. Having X-Wings and Y-Wings with blue highlights would not have worked given the limitations at the time. – JakeGould Dec 28 '15 at 15:58

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