A 64-year-old French man ejection fighter jet

He didn’t want to fly at all. He got a flight in a fighter jet – and accidentally activated the ejection seat

A present to say goodbye to the job almost turned into a catastrophe for a man. When he tried to stabilize himself in the 80 million euro fighter jet, in the back seat of which he was sitting behind a pilot of the French Air Force, he triggered the ejection seat – at a height of over 700 meters. Although he also lost his helmet, the departure ended lightly.

The report, which the French flight investigation published, reads like a joke at first. A 64-year-old who had never been in a fighter plane accidentally catapulted himself out of one and lost his helmet and suit. The report from which the “Telegraph” quotes describes exactly how the incident occurred in north-western France.

The colleague of the man who worked in the armaments industry had been surprised. As a present to say goodbye to the job, they had given him a fighter jet flight behind a real pilot. The latter was even authorized by the French Air Force on behalf of the Ministry of Defense because the man was “classified as a VIP,” according to the report.

“Never expressed a wish to take part in such a flight”

However, the report also says that the prospective pensioner “never expressed a wish to take part in such a flight”. Since his colleagues had kept the surprise secret until shortly before the flight, he also lacked the time to prepare for it. “The passenger said that he had never been in a fighter plane before and had insufficient knowledge of its properties,” the report said.

The 64-year-old nevertheless took a seat in the back seat of a Rafale-B fighter jet piloted by a 35-year-old pilot. The latter had 2000 hours of flight experience, around half of them in Rafale B jets. During his flights, however, an experienced pilot usually sat in second place on the plane.

At 2,500 feet, the man accidentally catapults himself out of the fighter jet

The accident happened at 2,500 feet (corresponds to around 750 meters). When the 64-year-old panicked and, according to his own statements, “wanted to stabilize”, he accidentally grabbed the trigger of the ejection seat and catapulted himself out of the jet.

But that wasn’t the end of the drama. Because he had not properly fastened his helmet, he lost it when he was thrown out of the jet. His suit, which was specially tailored for fighter pilots, also came off. The man was lucky in the accident and landed unharmed on a field near the German border.

Luck in misfortune: pilot is not thrown out of the jet and can land him

The flight also ended lightly for the pilot. Rafale-B fighter planes are actually designed so that when the ejection seat is triggered, both passengers are catapulted out of the jet. When the pilot noticed that the 64-year-old was no longer behind him, he feared that he would be thrown out of the plane at any moment. But that didn’t happen and the 35-year-old was able to land the jet safely in a field. He was only slightly injured and was in shock.

The result of the report was still clear. The Air Force and the Department of Defense were asked to review their operations, which allowed civilians to take part in military flights.