Jet Ride Gift Ends Badly

| April 12, 2020

Dassault Rafale Bs

Talk about an accident chain- Should have seen this one coming a mile away.

Mason sends.

Retirement day fighter jet ride ends in chaos after OAP pulls ejector seat lever

The hapless 64-year-old says he didn’t want the once-in a lifetime flight in a 1,200mph fighter aircraft but felt pressured into accepting his workmates’ retirement day gift.

A retirement day jolly ended in chaos and could easily have written off a £65 million fighter jet after a panicked pensioner pulled the wrong lever.

The elderly gent, whose name has not been released to spare his blushes, had been gifted a flight in a French Air Force Rafale B fighter jet by his workmates at a military equipment manufacturer.

It didn’t start well. According to a report from France’s BEA-E aviation investigator released this week, the retiree’s heart rate was between 136 and 142 beats per minute when he entered the cockpit, suggesting a state of extreme nervousness.

The 64-year-old told investigators that he felt pressured into accepting the flight, even though he was nervous, which only added to the stress.

The routine safety checks had reportedly been a bit sketchy too, with the passenger carrying out most of his personal set-up himself. As a result, his visor was left up, his anti-g trousers were not fastened properly, his oxygen mask wasn’t attached, and his seat straps were not pulled tight enough.

Nevertheless, the pilot of the 1,200mph jet took off at a steep angle and proceeded to take part in a series of high-G manoeuvres in formation with two other Dassault Rafales.

The pensioner, looking for something to hang on to, unfortunately grabbed the handle of the ejector seat: “Discovering the feeling of the negative load factor, the insufficiently strapped and totally surprised passenger held onto the ejector handle and activated it unintentionally.”

During the ejection, the civilian lost both his helmet and oxygen mask. The seat’s integral dinghy failed to inflate but lucky the incident took place over land.

The Rafale’s ejector seat is designed to eject both pilot and co-pilot if either of them pulls the handle, in order to save both crew if one of them were to be wounded.

The ejection procedure has four stages: first, the rear canopy is shattered by a line of small explosive charges embedded into the glass. Then the passenger seat is ejected.

After that the front canopy is destroyed by explosives and finally the pilot is fired out of the plane.

Wow. The unprofessionalism displayed here is stunning. Obviously an inadequate safety brief, if one was given at all, no one checking the passenger’s flight gear for proper fit, and no ground crew to assist him in strapping into the jet. The blame for this ultimately lies with the pilot, who should lose his wings. Read the rest here: Daily Star

Thanks, Mason.

Category: "Teh Stoopid", Air Force, Dick Stepping, Guest Link

Comments (34)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. 5th/77th FA says:

    “I TOLD you to keep your hands off the black and yellow handle.” “I didn’t touch the black and yellow handle, I was holding onto the yellow and black handle.”

    Somebody gots some ‘splainin’ to do.

  2. Mick says:

    Holy shit. Was anyone, anywhere in the French Air Force paying any attention to anything at all relating to this flight throughout this insanely unsafe sequence of events?

    The Frenchies are very lucky that they walked away from this without the pilot and/or passenger being killed and losing the aircraft. That passenger would have quickly become hypoxic with no O2 mask which could have killed him, he could have been blinded during ejection with no visor, and he could have been seriously injured during ejection by not being strapped in tightly enough. After landing, I’m hoping that the dumbass pilot at least had enough SA remaining to go directly into Maintenance Control and jump up on the Maintenance Chief’s desk and started kicking about the failure of the command ejection sequence. After the failure of the command ejection sequence and the failure of the passenger’s raft to deploy following ejection, the entire seat maintenance/riggers shop should be fired.

    BTW, the U.S. Navy had a similar incident back in the day out at NAS Fallon involving an F-14D Tomcat on an orientation flight. The passenger who unintentionally ejected was a Navy “Blackshoe” Captain who was the CSG Air Warfare Commander and CO of the cruiser in charge of a CSG’s air defenses. He was making the rounds through the CSG’s CVW squadrons, flying in the various type/model/series aircraft in order to gain a better understanding of how they operated. I’m acquainted with the guy who ejected; he’ll remain nameless because he’s still around.

    ‘F-14 Passenger Ejects’

    by Lt. Geoff Vickers

    Check out the photo at the link of the actual F-14D involved in this incident in flight after the passenger’s ejection; it’s a Tomcat “convertible”.

    Must have been a hell of a ride back to NAS Fallon with that canopy gone.

    • Mick says:

      Saved round: concur with AW1Ed that the French Air Force pilot should lose his wings. He was ultimately responsible for the safe conduct of that flight, so he owns every bit of that shocking unprofessional idiocy.

    • ArmyATC says:

      Lucky no one ended up like a certain lawer who is still flying at -6ft.

    • timactual says:

      “I said to myself, “This is new….”

      Love that. I will be laughing for hours.

    • AW1Ed says:

      I remember when the Tomcat incident happened. Night-and-day between the two articles.

    • Forest Green says:

      Com’on now, someone was just taking an opportunity to loose a “shoe”.

  3. Green Thumb says:


    Them dudes are lucky to be alive.

    Rehearsals and ppre-movement checks are key. They may be repetitious, but there is a reason that we have them.

    This is some totally All-Points Logistics type shit.

  4. The Other Whitey says:

    I’m thinking of the first time I rode in a Huey. One of the Helitack guys held up a laminated sheet of paper with the following list:

    1) Get in
    2) Strap in
    3) Pull straps tight
    4) Shut the fuck up and don’t touch nothing

    On the one hand, the pilot should get bitchslapped for not making damn sure his backseat passenger was good to go before taking off. On the other hand, props to the pilot for getting his plane back down safely.

    And finally:

    • Mason says:

      Partner of mine was tasked to go in the state patrol helo with a couple fire fighters to search a very large river for a body. My partner doesn’t mention he’s afraid of flying and has never once flown in anything, not even an airliner for a vacation. They put him in the co-pilot’s seat and the FFs go in the back.

      The pilot lands and keeps the engine running. Being a cop, his briefing is something like, “Alright, so we’ll be over water. If we go down, just get out and if you can grab somebody on the way out that’d be cool.” Up they go.

      Being over a river it’s bumpy and they immediately start getting tossed around. Partner has a little panic and throws his arms and feet out to brace himself. The pilot starts slapping him hard. Turns out one of his feet had caught the tail rotor pedal and the pilot was having to fight to keep from spinning out of control.

      • The Other Whitey says:

        My Grandpa (Dad’s side) retired from the US Forest Service and has his share of stories. One in particular involves being flown into a mountaintop lightning strike following a thunderstorm in the early 70s. The pilot is a former Army WO who flew multiple tours with the Air Cav in Vietnam and, according to my Grandpa, never got out of the habit of flying low and fast.

        One of Grandpa’s firefighters is concerned about their (high) airspeed and (low) altitude. The dumbass yells to the pilot, “Are you sure this is safe? We’re really low going really fast! What happens if you lose control?”

        The pilot……evidently didn’t appreciate the criticism. According to Grandpa, he turned and looked at them with “the craziest psycho smirk I’ve ever seen in my life” and yelled back, “Ya know, I don’t know! LET’S FIND OUT!!”

        He then went hands-free, giving everybody an excellent demonstration of the natural instability of a helicopter in flight. Once they landed, (and Grandpa says “You couldn’t’ve yanked a banjo string outta my ass with a D-9 Cat!” ) a new rule was immediately instituted: NO TALKING IN THE AIRCRAFT, EVER. The dumbass who failed to keep his mouth shut also received some, shall we say, “counseling” from Grandpa and the rest of the crew, of the “no blood from the face” variety.

    • timactual says:

      “2) Strap in
      3) Pull straps tight”

      Straps? We don’t need no steenkin’ straps.

      I don’t recall ever strapping in. Maybe once when I flew with a trainee pilot. That was a bit scary.

      I can remember one flight when I was last aboard and had to stand on the skid with my butt clinging to about six inches of floor space (the chopper was very full). I told the guy behind me to hold on to my rucksack just in case.

      Ah, good times.

      • Poetrooper says:

        Tim, you reminded me of one time in 1966 when we had just loaded the battalion CP tent onto a Huey and jumped aboard to head back to 101st base camp at Tuy Hoa. The tent took up much of the cargo deck so young Poe’s seating space was like yours, six inches of metal deck and legs hanging outside.

        When we took off, to clear some tall trees the hotshot young Wolters warrant pitched it hard right as we rapidly climbed out, leaving Poe looking straight down at the ground and scrabbling for a handhold. The only thing available was the rope around the folded up CP tent which would have been fine HAD THE FUCKIN” TENT BEEN SECURED!

        Looking down at the treetops, I could feel the damned thing pressing against my back and beginning to shift ever so slightly. The only thing that kept me from screaming was pride–the effin’ BN XO, sitting at the rearmost position and out of harm’s way, saw my predicament and was laughing at the fear in my wide eyes.

        Lucky for Poe, we quickly cleared the jungle canopy and the pilot leveled off before I ended up heading back towards the muck with a couple hundred pounds of canvas riding my back.

        That smart-ass XO was grinning at me all the way back to base camp.

  5. Club Manager, USA ret. says:

    WAR STORY ALERT: I was selected as Airman of the Quarter in about 64′ while stationed at Portland International Airport (Air Force side) and received a T-33 ride. The T-33 was a two seat pilot and rear and the jet trainer of the day. In the preflight briefing while I was in the rear seat the pilot made it very clear what not to touch and what to pull if we had to punch out. To say I avoided the eject lever like the plague is an understatement. The flight was great until the pilot asked me if I wanted to take the controls. I had been watching the instruments having figured out how to read them, and knew our altitude and when the aircraft was in level flight but hesitated. Maybe scared shitless would be a better description because although I had lots of flight time on recip aircraft, some in the cockpit or at a console with instruments (i.e., SA-53 search and rescue making water landings), never at the controls. The pilot put his hands up and said it’s all yours. I grabbed the control and managed to maintain altitude and level flight with a little guidance. He walked me through a slight turn and maybe a change in altitude. I was glad when he took it back but man, what a once in a lifetime experience. I guess no one on the French jet briefed the passenger on what not to touch.

    • Kurt Rominger says:

      We were still flying those until the mid 80’s. Being Life Support (P.E. back then), I got a ride. Many of those aircraft are still flying.

  6. Jeff LPH 3, 63-66 says:

    Great caesers ghost, talk about a wing and a prayer.

  7. HMCS(FMF) ret says:

    Sacre bleu! Sounds like the pilot and anyone else involved in this should be pulling the shitty little jobs detail for a long time.

  8. CST396B says:

    Wow…I have a feeling multiple personnel associated with that flight wing aren’t going to get the opportunity to receive a military pension after this incident like this old fella :D. Even though they saved the aircraft I can’t imagine the repair/maintenace costs to this fighter jet are going to be cheap. I guess there is a silver lining in the fact at least they identified the issue with the ejection seat sequence. Might save a pilot’s life in the future.

    Only military aircraft I’ve ever flown in was a black hawk over the mean skies of Korea back in ’05. I loved it though. I used to go down to our S-3 shop and listen to all the flight stories from these former pilots. I was seriously interested in becoming a pilot myself for a while there. There was this G-13/O-5 reservist that worked in my s-2 shop that owned a single engine cessna and offered to give me some flying lessons to see if I really wanted to become an army pilot, then write me a recommendation. But being the young punk kid that I was, I didn’t take him up on the offer. I did my four year enlistment then ETSed out of the army at 22. BIGGEST mistake of my life :(.

  9. Anonymous says:

    “D’oh!” –Homer Simpson

  10. AW1Ed says:

    Sea story alert.
    At my last P-3 squadron, MrsAW1 got me flying lessons at the NAS Brunswick Flying Club as a B-Day present. Very cool. After the training and requisite number of flight hours (and $$$S), I was a certified Private Pilot.
    As such, I became my crew’s 4P (there really is no such thing officially) and would fly the bird. As long as we were above 1000′ and a 2P or better was in the flight station it was perfectly legal.
    Anyway on a long REPO flight over the Atlantic, I had jumped into the left seat when altitude and heading were established, and began racking up those multi-engine instrument hours.
    In the back, a ground-pounder Chief passenger woke up, moseyed up to the Flight Station and saw AW1Ed, an Enlisted guy, driving the bus. He about came unglued yelling about safety violations and putting everyone on the carpet when we landed. The LT and Senior Chief Flight Engineer told him to STFU and relax, everything was under control.
    He never did much like me after that.
    Good times.

  11. Prior Service says:

    Well, there goes my chance for a backseat ride in a fighter when I retire. Thanks, Frenchie!

  12. rgr769 says:

    I received that ejection seat brief each time I rode in the back seat of an OV-10 Bronco. The pilot always made it abundantly clear not to touch that handle unless he said to do so in an emergency.

    • Mike B USAF Retired says:

      I remember giving OV-10 seat training. My first unit was the 27th TASS, 602nd TACW. Got a few incentive rides in the Bronco.

      The article, causes me some great concern. For incentive riders, we gave them Life Support equipment training, fitted the Life Support gear (Helmet and mask, torso harnesses, g-suit) to them. Assisted them with getting the equipment on when they stepped for their flight. In some units we brought them out to the aircraft and strapped them in, in others the Crew Chief strapped them in. In some units we gave the seat training, in other units the pilots gave the seat training along with cockpit fam.

      There were so many failures it’s scary. If this had happened in an USAF unit, the Aircrew Life Support/Aircrew Flight Equipment shop leadership along with the tech’s that fitted the equipment would be jobless.

      Didn’t matter who was getting the ride, military, civilian VIP, foreign dignitary etc.

      They were briefed over and over to leave the ejection seat handle alone. They were told and shown where handholds were located.

      So many failures here it’s damn scary.

      • Kurt Rominger says:

        I was Life Support also. You are absolutely correct. It took four hours to brief the seat and fit equipment. This was insane to throw someone in the jet like that.

    • Green Thumb says:

      As an Infantry solider, did not get get curious?

      I mean, its there, right? It has to serve some function or purpose…right?

      Only one way to find out.

      Much like the “Tilt-rod” check on the old M-19 anti-tank mine…

  13. 11B-Mailclerk says:

    Premature eject-ulation.

  14. Messkit says:

    Another 6 hour Power-Point briefing, has been born.

  15. 26Limabeans says:

    I had to ask what NOSTEP meant.

  16. 11B-Mailclerk says:

    Isn’t there a pilot-selectable setting for ejection where “both” can be locked out to “individual” ? I seem to recall reading this for the F-15E. That would seem essential for two-seaters where the second person might not be fully trained.

    • Kurt Rominger says:

      You are correct. The F16 has three settings. One which locks out the back seat. I don’t know about this jet. Back seat always goes first in any sequence so the rocket motor doesn’t fry the back seat occupant.

  17. MSG Eric says:

    Next thing you know, every other military in the world will be making fun of the French military!

  18. Kurt Rominger says:

    We were still flying those until the mid 80’s. Being Life Support (P.E. back then), I got a ride. Many of those aircraft are still flying.