A 64-year-old French pensioner was recently peer pressured into flying in a fighter jet to celebrate his retirement. The man was so nervous he reached out during the flight and accidentally ejected himself mid-flight, a report from IFL Science reveals.
Thankfully, the parachute attached to his ejector suit carried him safely to the ground from an altitude of roughly 2,500 feet, and he now lives to tell a cautionary tale of epic proportions.
Out of the frying pan, into the fire
The incident, which took place on March 20, 2019, occurred after the unnamed pensioner received a retirement gift of a fighter jet experience aboard a two-seat Rafale-B French Air Force fighter jet at the Saint-Dizier 113 airbase, in eastern France. Reports say the man wasn't a keen flyer and that he reluctantly entered the fighter jet after his colleagues had paid a substantial sum for the experience. Little did he know that he would soon go flying out of the aircraft's cockpit.
Thankfully, both he and the jet's pilot landed safely. According to an accident incident report in French, reported on by CNN at the time, the man had previously shown no desire to fly in a fighter jet and was told about the flight experience as a surprise gift on the same day. Investigators of the incident also pointed out that a watch the pensioner was wearing that could measure heart rate showed the man's "heart was in full tachycardia" before the flight, reaching a range of between 136 and 142 beats per minute.
When the jet was at an altitude of 2,500 feet above ground, the pilot started to climb, and the passenger panicked and grabbed out at something to hold onto. Unfortunately, he wasn't immediately aware that he reached out and grabbed the ejection button. He did, of course, become aware mere seconds later when his seat shot out of the fighter jet at immense speed. The incident report also stated that the French pensioner hadn't attached his helmet properly and it went flying off into the distance.
The incident report cites peer pressure and poor preparation
Thankfully, the pensioner's ejector seat's parachute deployed successfully and the man was taken to hospital to be checked after landing. The pilot was not ejected. He was able to land the jet safely, only sustaining minor facial injuries during the ordeal. The Rafale B aircraft flown by the pilot and the pensioner has a maximum speed of roughly 1,400 kilometers per hour (870 miles per hour).
The report on the incident concluded that peer pressure, as well as poor preparation, led to the incident prior to which several safety regulations went unheeded. Typically anyone undergoing such a flight will take a medical 10 days prior to taking off. In this case, however, "the margins of decision left to the passenger to possibly refuse the flight are perceived as almost nonexistent", the report said. The medical was conducted on the same day based on an agreement that the passenger would not be exposed to negative G forces. However, this was not communicated to the pilot who allowed him to feel a negative load factor of about -0.6G when the plane was leveled out after ascent, leading him to reach out and send himself flying out of the plane.
So, you know, if you're going to surprise someone with an adrenaline ride, it might be worth checking if they actually want to do it first, for the safety of all involved.