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CF-18 Ejection

Posted by Jolly on March 21, 2012

For those of you who have been test pilots of an ejection seat, you may appreciate this more than most.  I (thank you God) have never had to return a jet to the taxpayers.  Talk to anyone who has, and they will tell you they can remember everything from pulling the handles to the PLF.  Time slows down when shit hits the fan, it's called temporal distortion.  A second seems like an hour.  Most guys can remember the canopy leaving, the seat going up the rail, drogue chute deploying, man seat separation, and the ride down.  It's less then 2 seconds from pulling the handles to clearing the tail, but for most who have ejected it seems like an eternity.

Here are some interesting photos of the ejection from the Hornet that crashed last year in Alberta, Canada.  Feel free to comment on your own ejection experience. Here's what this fighter pilot may have been thinking.

That's enough, I'm out of here


Glad the seat gyros are working, come on drogue chute

Man Seat Separation, Hoping for a clean chute.  Looks like my jet is going to be code three.

Thank you Life Support!  I owe massive quantities of beer to the guys who packed my chute and signed off on my seat!


Now let's think about that PLF and see if we can stay out of the fireball!


Now it's time for a ride to the hospital, tell the flight doc everything that I ate and drank for the last 72 hours, give some guy with a tape recorder my take on what just happened, and call my wife so she can bring a new pair of underwear and a bottle of weed!  These are all of the things you have to think in about 3 seconds, but then again it seems like 3 hours.  That's a long time to be sporting a soiled flight suit!

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Posted by Jolly on
From the Doc:

Jolly, had an 'almost' experience off coast of CA. '89 or '90
From Luke to Miramar in F-15D. We were in the furthest west block off the coast doing the knife fight with the fellows from the large grey boat. Engines dropped to idle, quick check, NG, at 29K we started trading airspeed for altitude and headed east. With Catalina Island at our 0900 we were ready to do the "B" word. Long story short, declared an in-flight and came in straight 'a little hot' to Miramar. After stopping the engines both stalled when we tried to taxi in.
Some fuel transfer pump problem (I was the O-5 flt doc with experienced O-3 pilot)
Doc Rodney
Posted by Plug on
Not sure how important my recollections are, but as I recall my Dad's limited tales of WWII in Europe, starting at D-Day, I think its important to leave some bits of information about the past and how things worked.

Returning to Beaufort from Yuma after a training deployment I was able to get a back seat in a MAG 31 TA-4 on a Saturday afternoon. The pilot was a major who as we strapped in told me: "Plug, three things I've never done: landed with my wheels up, ran out of fuel, never ejected."

We finished the afternoon crossing 2 out of three off the list. We had filed to land and stay overnight at Sheppard AFB because we'd be getting back to the east coast too late for MCAS Beaufort operating hours on a Saturday.

About 50-60 miles out we were just gonna start our descent and the EGT stated to decay and that was that, at 31K we had a single engine that was no longer wanting to run. When we declared an emergency I think the ATC controller probably spilled his coffee and didn't seem to understand we had a glider and were going to need some help.

Once we told him what we were going to do, leave the airplane in a field without us in it, he finally seemed to get the idea. Anyway, about 6-7K AGL we turned the Skyhawk over to the citizens of Wichita Falls.

My recollection was not so much the seat going up the rails as the airplane being pushed down underneath me. I remember the canopy leaving and the wind rush (we were relatively slow, 140 kts or so)pushing my mask to the side of my face. Then a sort of slow motion up to the left roll to what I think was sort of on my back, to the left. My understanding that is typical of the Escapac seats.

Then, pooof! Pretty good opening jolt and the risers giving a pretty good scruff across the left side of my neck. Another Escapac thing. When I was stabilized in the (tiny A-4) chute , I saw the front seat guy a couple of hundred feet ahead and below me and that was a bit comforting.

I watch the plane nose up, stall then nose into a field. Made a heck of a fireball so that was good evidence of lots of fuel on board.

There were some power lines, not far, not close, but the very light breeze had me drifting that way so recalling some info from training. I yanked on the risers to try to turn and managed to do a 360. That ended my steering attempts.

After a bit of time, I took my hands down from the risers and as I sat there in the harness, I remember thinking, I guess I see why people do this for fun. For what ever reason, I thought it was like being in a sail boat, running with the wind. Quiet, smooth.

So, there I was, no plane, dangling in the Texas afternoon sun with not much to do but wait until I hit the ground. I remember a Navy chief's training: IRSOK. inflate, release. snap, oxygen, Kochs. I didn't see any water for a million miles so none of that was too relevant.

Not much sensation of going down until there was: I recall just watching the horizon enjoying the view until pretty quickly I got the sensation of the ground coming up. Quickly. Fortunately that OH S... moment last only a fraction of a section and I did all the stuff we learned long ago. Elbows in, knees bent, what ever..

I hit the ground pretty hard and with not even a breeze, I fell back onto my seat pan, perfectly positioned to knock the wind out of me and the canopy drifted right down on top of me. You could not have scripted it any better.

The driver had hit the ground a bit sooner than I did and came running over to check on me. With the wind knocked out I couldn't talk and he was a bit concerned because my hand motions seemed to make even less sense with no words.

In a few seconds, caught my breath and we decided we were both OK and decided we ought to try all our never get-to-use survival gear. Flares, smoke, radio. Why not?

Just about then, a pick up with 3 guys pulled up off a dirt road that I guess went through their farm. They were excited and glad we were OK. Seems they were sitting on the porch Saturday afternoon and the explosions of the seats got their attention. We were the biggest excitement in the area in quite a while. The guy who was riding in the back of the truck had a six pack, mostly there in the plastic and really wanted to share with us. I almost think he was insulted when we didn't him up on his offer.

As they were driving us to the crash site, a mile or so away, an Air Guard Huey showed up and followed the truck to the crash. Just about then the local TV news folks showed up.

To make a long story not too much longer, we got helo'ed to Sheppard, I got to endure a really pissed off flight surgeon who had been draft deferred during the height of VietNam but got drafted in the late 70's out of his residency, and had all my body parts x-rayed.

The human interest part of the story: the base duty officer, a major as I recall, was the twin brother ( really) of the guy I was flying with. He made sure we were well taken care of and the fun part was this particular Saturday, the Dutch trainees were celebrating the coronation of the queen or something and we were the guests of honor. When we showed up on the evening news, we were stars.

So, turned out well, best guess was the fuel pump did something really wrong and took out the fuel lines never allowing us to relight the engine.

Only thing I would have done different is to have dropped the seat pan before I hit the ground. I learned the A-4 parachutes are small and allow for a really high rate of descent. Probably want as little weight as possible under that canopy.
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