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After the Colonial Marines landed on the planet and determined the control building was "secure", most of the marines moved into the control building.

The pilot, Corporal Colette Ferro, and her assistant, Private Spunkmeyer, remained behind on the dropship. They stayed on the dropship even after the marines learned the colony was deserted and the aliens were hostile.

Why did they remain alone in a hostile situation? And why did they leave the ramp open?

We saw later than an alien snuck aboard the dropship and killed both Ferro and Spunkmeyer.

If you have an answer from the official novelization, script, or interviews of cast and crew, please share. I prefer answers with quotes from actual sources.

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    There's no reason for them to leave, the marines need pilots just as much as they need the ship, so the two might as well stay together. The part that makes no sense is why they didn't leave more marines with the ship, to defend it and the pilots. – DaaaahWhoosh Jun 17 '17 at 3:03
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    The main reason the pilots stay behind with the drop ship is for operational readiness. If the Colonial Marines need to evacuate quickly, the pilots are there at the ready. As for the ramp being open, it was in the script. From a tactical/readiness standpoint, there was no real reason for this. Leaving this as a comment, because it is from a real world standpoint, not something derived from the script, movie, or book. BTW, Hudson has the best one liners in a movie ... eva! RIP Bill Paxton. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Jun 17 '17 at 12:38
  • If I remember correctly, didn't the dropship immediately lift off again, once Bishop drove the vehicle out? Where exactly did the dropship go after that - I had presumed it was returning to the orbital ship. Did they just "park" it some place else? Wouldnt the dropship be safer in the air? – vikingsteve Aug 4 '17 at 12:45
  • @vikingsteve Didn't Bishop remotely pilot a second dropship from the Sulaco down to the surface? – RichS Aug 4 '17 at 14:58
  • @RichS This isn't about the second dropship, its about the first one. – vikingsteve Aug 5 '17 at 11:07
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According to the original draft of the screenplay Spunkmeyer leaves the dropship to take some gear to Bishop, who is working in the colony lab. Presumably he had to lower the ramp to exit the dropship and has left it down while he is on the errand. When he returns to the dropship, he notices the alien "goo" on the ramp.

INT. MED LAB 108 Bishop is hunched over an occular probe doing a dissection of one of the dead parasites. Spunkmeyer enters with some electronics gear on a hand truck and parks it near Bishop's work table.

SPUNKMEYER Need anything else?

Bishop waves "no" without looking up.

EXT. COLONY - DROP-SHIP 109 Spunkmeyer emerges, crossing the Tarmac to the loading ramp of the ship. As he nears the top of the ramp, his boot slips...skidding on something wet. Kneeling, he touches a small puddle of thick slime. He shrugs, and hits the controls to retract the ramp and close the doors.

As to why the dropship crew stay with the dropship, it makes sense to have the dropship crew on standby ready to respond to any emergency. Tactically it would not make sense for the entire unit to leave their main transport and fire support behind unmanned.

  • Thanks for providing quote from the screenplay. Quotes Get Votes! That explains why the crew stayed on the dropship (presumably with ramp closed) and why the ramp was open long enough for an alien to get aboard. – RichS Jun 19 '17 at 6:38
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    And another thanks for explaining why that scene with Spunkmeyer and Bishop was relevant. I thought that scene was useless when I first saw the movie, except maybe to show Bishop calling the alien "magnificent" so the audience would think he would try to save one. Instead we learn the scene was so we could see why Spunkmeyer left the dropship. – RichS Jun 20 '17 at 0:39
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Where would they be safer?
Would the marines be able to protect the pilots better if the pilots were following the marines like the noncombatants being escorted in that video game trope?

I mean, when I was in the Navy, I worked in the Reactor Department, and so I never got to see any combat situations. One thing they did, though — and this really isn't something that only a military organization does, — was to prohibit personnel from operating equipment which they were not trained and qualified to operate.

I would venture that standard operating procedure is for the crew to remain behind and use the hull and shielding of the dropship as primary protection. The marines can do their jobs if they aren't bothered with babysitting too.

Most military expeditions are not like Star Trek: the acting–Captain and bridge crew don't go out and scout potentially dangerous situations.


Further information

Andres F. mentions that all US Marines are indoctinated to the crédo dé corps that “Every Marine is a Rifleman.” Likely the Weyland-Yutani Company Marines have a similar creed.
So, unless the pilots were lax with maintaining their proficiencies, they wouldn't've been exactly dead weight in an infantry maneuver.

Lèse majesté also makes a good point: the air wing detachments are usually distinct from any infantry squads or other personnel which they would be transporting.
Their job would most likely be to remain behind and maintain the dropship in condition ready to fly — or even to sky out if the dropzone gets too hot, with the infantry ditched until they could be retrieved.

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    Isn't it a thing with US Marines that "every Marine is a rifleman"? If so, presumably the US Colonial Marines follow the same rule, and therefore Cpl Ferro and Pvt Spunkmeyer would also be able to handle themselves with a M41A Pulse Rifle :) They wouldn't have needed any babysitting. – Andres F. Jun 17 '17 at 2:48
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    AFAIK, pilots aren't issued the same weapons as infantry. They usually carry much lighter weapons (e.g. a pistol or maybe an SMG). Regardless, most militaries don't recruit their air wing pilots into the infantry unit they're delivering. An extra rifle wouldn't balance out the risk they're taking in leaving their only route of escape unattended. OTOH, staying with the dropship means the ground unit has air support (far more firepower than a pulse rifle), quick evac and eyes on the landing zone. – Lèse majesté Jun 17 '17 at 3:08
  • Very good answer, but there was no comment on why they left the ramp open. This always also bothered me a lot... – Rebel-Scum Jun 17 '17 at 11:11
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    Leaving the ramp open - particularly after they're told the colony is infested with hostile aliens - is something of a plot hole, yes. The marines could have radioed ahead to say they were coming in hot for a fast evac, at which point the pilots reopen the ramp to be ready, so yeah, there's no reason to keep it down while they're just waiting. Other than, of course, "We need an excuse to kill these two because it's a horror movie and people need to die." – Steve-O Jun 17 '17 at 12:53
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    There is no such thing as "Weyland-Yutani Company Marines". – T.J.L. Apr 16 '18 at 16:58

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