This thread at Scum
prompted me to reply... Here's the link:
The thread revolves around the "ejection seat" being advertised in the current rumor of a new TIE Interceptor coming to retail utilizing the newly tooled cockpit ball for TIE Fighter craft.
The reason I post this is there's some debate and misconception that TIE Fighters even have ejection seats... The fact is, they do according to Lucasfilm in the expanded universe, as well as in the actual movies! Hasbro's actually creating something that's little known to many.
First the EU evidence... The original EU to explore "ejection" from fighters in Star Wars was the X-Wing and TIE Fighter series of games. In the original DOS games, ejection left 3 possible results for the pilot... There was the hope your own team would come pick you up, you could be picked up by the enemy, and you could also die if the ejection system failed and you were locked into the ship.
The ejection system in the game actually was so advanced you could eject just for ***** and giggles, as there were controls available to manually bail out. It would leave the fighter spiralling away on a seemingly auto-destruct system then.
When picked up by the Alliance in X-Wing you were healed and your game was restored. When picked up by the Empire in X-Wing you were detailed and ultimately interrogated/tortured by Darth Vader. When you died, a ship-board funeral for you was depicted with officers and pilotsin attendance as your body was dropped in a capsule out and down into a planetary atmosphere were you burned up I guess.
The ejection system in TIE Fighter was similar, however it's logical to assume "ejecting" isn't something the Empire is appreciative of unless it's an absolute necessity.
IN the games actually, most Imperial fighters will run headlong at you and ram you if you don't break off... The game explains this as their fanaticism to their cause ala the Japanese pilots of World War 2 as well as some German pilots.
This was later expanded upon further in the X-Wing: Alliance game, which was the final game of the X-Wing/TIE Fighter series for PC. The Alliance game actually would have computer-played combatants randomly eject when/if they were being destroyed. This would literally leave a targetable pilot floating in space, either an orange suited rebel or a black suited Imperial. You could then "mop up" the battle area if you wanted and shoot the pilots... You could also run into them, essentially splattering them into your shields. They did the most minimal of damage even if you didn't have shielding up. When shot, they simply vaporized. Neat.
Second in the EU though, is the Empire series of comics... In the storyline for Biggs in particular, he jumps ship from the Rand Ecliptic, and in a mission for the Alliance he defected to, Biggs and his other mutineers eject from their TIE Fighters leaving harnessed droids to fly them. They then floated about in space till picked up.
Likewise other ejection systems in other craft seem to exist in the EU... X-Wings I believe are explored somewhat in the Thrawn Trilogy, but I can't recall that for sure or not.
The third and final nail in the ejection seat coffin, is the film The Empire Strikes Back... This is the pure canon, and not disputeable unlike the EU. In the widescreen edition of Empire, one of the TIE's pursuing the Millenium Falcon into the asteroid field hits an asteroid head-on. The Imperial Pilot inside can be seen ejecting straight up out of the cockpit, and actually on fire somewhat. LFL themselves have backed this up in semi-recent years, however the original people to spot this cited physical reasons the pilot is ejecting.
Most notably, the TIE Fighter itself is moving forward obviously, and hits the asteroid while in pursuit... The pilot is moving straight upward from the craft's upper hull/cockpit ball though, proving he's actually "ejected" when the asteroid appeared in front of him leaving him no option to avoid it. Pretty slick little detail.
Also it's noted in that thread about flying into atmosphere, and while the films don't explore this very much (fighters seen flying over Endor in formation, Luke's X-Wing into the atmosphere of Bespin, ships leaving Yavin, etc.), all the fighters in EU are capable of atmospheric combat/flight with only slight differences in their performance from that of space. Perhaps pilots have a small chute in the chair to deploy, whereas in space they can simply detach from the seat (or remain seated) and just wait for pick-up if it's going to come.